Saturday 31 October 2015

Happy Halloween!

Wishing you all a safe and fun All Hallow's Eve.

Friday 30 October 2015

Movie Review: Attack on Titan Parts 1 & 2

Directed by: Shinji Higuchi, 2015

Pros: excellent special effects, horrifically creepy titans, some interesting characters, learn origin of titans, thought provoking 

Cons: unnecessarily excessive shaky cam, LOTS of blood and gore, some caricature characters, ending has a confusion of action

It’s been a hundred years since the three circles of walls were built to keep the man eating titans out.  Some inhabitants are starting to question the necessity of the walls and even in the titans are real.  Suddenly the titans breach the wall and the horrifying reality of the titans is revealed.

I went into the film knowing nothing more than what the trailers said about it.  I haven’t read the manga or watched the anime.  So this review will only reference the film and won’t contain any comparisons between the stories across media (except to say that the people in costume in the row in front of us mentioned that the character Levi isn’t in the film).

There is a lot of blood in this film.  Now, that’s not surprising given the premise of man eating monsters, but there was a LOT of blood, and dismembered body parts, and people being crushed (sometimes with ridiculous ease and a giant explosion of blood).  The first half of the first film is especially horrific, as the titans wade through a town, killing indiscriminately.  The rest of the film, while still bloody, isn’t quite so bad.  

There’s also a lot of shaky cam.  While a few scenes benefitted from the effect - like the introduction
of the titans when the ground starts to shake - it’s often entirely unnecessary - like during the animated historical briefing title sequence.  As with the blood, it’s especially noticeable in the first part, though that could be because I was used to it by the time the second part started.

The special effects were, on the whole, amazing.  The design for the titans was awesome, though the first titan you see (the one on the poster above) isn’t representative of what titans look like en mass.  That titan looks like muscle on a skeleton with smoke coming out of the joints, while regular titans are gigantic humans with extra long mouths and offset features, like eyes too far apart.  They’re creepy and - at times - hilarious in a horrible kind of way, though some also look kind of goofy.  The end result is very creepy, especially as they’re tearing people apart and/or eating them whole.

You’re slowly introduced to three characters who play important roles in the fill, Eren (Haruma Miura), Mikasa (Kiko Mizuhara) and Armin (Kanata Hongo, who was also in the live action Gantz movie).  You’re given more information about them and their motivations than you are for the characters you meet in a more rushed way later.  In fact, later in the film you meet so many new characters it’s a challenge keeping them all straight and I didn’t remember more than one or two of their names afterwards.  

A few of the characters are basically caricatures and are clearly carried over from the manga.   Hange, a woman obsessed with titans and weapons is the best example of this.  She’s played mostly for comedic effect, but her actions seem starkly out of place given the grave nature of what’s happening in the film.

The teenage girls in the row behind us found one scene late in the first part that made them titter and laugh.  It’s a short scene and not graphic.

While I thought the ‘flying’ weapon get up was cool - and looked amazing when really skilled people, like Captain Shikishima used it - but recognized that it wouldn’t actually work in real life.  It propels you too quickly, there isn’t always something to hook into, and on the whole would be impossible to learn how to use effectively without killing yourself in the process (or the first time you tried to use it in battle).  But it does look cool on screen. 

I was really happy that part 2 of the film explains the origins of the titans.  And while the film didn’t answer every question, it did answer the major ones.  My husband found the ending a bit overdone in terms of the variety of action and character inclusion, though it was quite exciting to watch. 

The film does raise some questions about how people use fear to control others, whether rebellions are good or worse than the regimes they’re trying to replace, the nature of humanity, the uses of science, the desire for freedom, etc.  I love it when I spend the next day trying to parse what I’ve seen.

It’s not a film I feel I need to own, but it was an interesting story and I’m glad I saw it.

Thursday 29 October 2015

Shout-Out: A Borrowed Man by Gene Wolfe

It is perhaps a hundred years in the future, our civilization is gone, and another is in place in North America, but it retains many familiar things and structures. Although the population is now small, there is advanced technology, there are robots, and there are clones.

E. A. Smithe is a borrowed person. He is a clone who lives on a third-tier shelf in a public library, and his personality is an uploaded recording of a deceased mystery writer. Smithe is a piece of property, not a legal human.

A wealthy patron, Colette Coldbrook, takes him from the library because he is the surviving personality of the author of Murder on Mars. A physical copy of that book was in the possession of her murdered father, and it contains an important secret, the key to immense family wealth. It is lost, and Colette is afraid of the police. She borrows Smithe to help her find the book and to find out what the secret is. And then the plot gets complicated.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Video: Back to the Source - Historical European Martian Arts

This is a documentary on HEMA, Historical European Martial Arts.  It's a long video, but it's split into 9 chapters, so if you don't have time for the whole thing, you can skip to the parts that interest you.

From their youtube page:

A look into the world of Historical European Martial Arts, where a community revives centuries old martial arts based on the research and study of period source material.
Introduction: (3 mins 18 sec) @ 0:00:01
Chapter 1: What is HEMA? (11 mins 52 secs) @ 0:03:20
Chapter 2: How Does it Work? (9 mins 54 secs) @ 0:15:12
Chapter 3: Research (6 mins 48 secs) @ 0:25:04
Chapter 4: The Validity of HEMA (11 mins 4 secs) @ 0:31:52
Chapter 5: HEMA Today (12 mins 26 secs) @ 0:42:56
Chapter 6: Equipment (9 mins 2 secs) @ 0:55:22
Chapter 7: HEMA Identity (7 mins 24 secs) @ 1:04:24
Chapter 8: Competitions in HEMA (10 mins 32 secs) @ 1:11:48
Chapter 9: The Community (5 mins 38 secs) @ 1:22:20
Closing Credits: (1 min 14 secs) @1:27:58
I learned several interesting things from watching this, one of which is that there's more than one way to correctly hold the hilt of a sword, including a kind of backwards, hands intertwined grip.

I also remember hearing criticism of a fantasy cover a few years back which showed a knight holding the hilt of his sword with one hand and the blade with the other.  Well, apparently that was a form of fighting employed against knights in armour - a means of turning their longsword into a halberd or other tool that was more effective than a sword at getting into the cracks in armour.  I couldn't find the cover, but I did find this article on longsword fighting with the following fencing manuscript photo (as well as several others).

If you want to do some research into manuscripts and European sword fighting, the video mentions, which is a free library of books and manuscripts.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Book Review: Against A Brightening Sky by Jaime Lee Moyer

Pros: interesting murder mystery, wonderful relationships


The year is 1919 and a riot and explosions rock San Francisco’s St Patrick’s Day parade, the perpetrators targeting a young woman in the crowd.  Captain Gabe Ryon tries to figure out the connection between the attack and the growing number of murdered Russian immigrants.  Meanwhile his wife, Delia, is haunted by the ghost of a European princess.

The novel is split between Gabe and Delia’s efforts to understand what’s happening and stop the murders.  It’s great seeing how the investigation covers both procedural and spiritualist methods.  The mystery is intense, with a lot of twists.

It’s a real joy seeing a book that has several loving couples and deep friendships.  While you can read this book independently of the previous two in the series (Delia’s Shadow and A Barricade in Hell), you’ve definitely got a deeper sense of the relationships and how the characters have come to trust and rely on each other if you’ve read the other books.  

Perhaps that’s why the books, though dealing with disturbing subject matter, leave one with a feeling of positivity.  There’s a good amount of death and darkness, but the stories read more like cosy mysteries than hardboiled detective fiction.

It’s a fast paced book that makes good use of an interesting time and setting.  This is a series I highly recommend.

Sunday 25 October 2015

Mystery Box: Supply Pod Update - 10% Off Coupon Code!

Update: The fine people at Outer Places have given me a coupon code for 10% off  the Supply Pod mystery box to share with my readers, FANLETTER10.  The last day to order this box is Thursday October 29th, so if you're interested, you've got to decide soon.  Orders ship on the 31st.

Miss my previous post on this mystery box and don't know what I'm talking about?  It's a box similar to Loot Crate but 'where science meets science fiction'.  The contents are secret, but this box is themed around the film The Martian, and so may include "survival gear, astronaut essentials, engaging collectibles and much more".  Right now the box is only available in the US and comes in two options. The Essential Pod costs $29.99 + 7.99 shipping and handling.

The Deluxe Pod  is an extra $10 and comes with a copy of the novel, The Martian (with 50 people getting autographed copies).

Alas, I can't get the box, being Canadian, but I'm hoping someone does an unboxing video so I can see what cool things are in it.

Friday 23 October 2015

Shout-Out: Robot Universe, Legendary Automatons and Androids From the Ancient World to the Distant Future by Ana Matronic

Explore the Robot Universe, and discover the hundred most epic androids and automatons from myth, through popular culture, to modern-day machines. Robot aficionado Ana Matronic—vocalist with world-famous band Scissor Sisters—explores their creation, design, purpose, and how they have comforted, fascinated, or terrified us across the ages and galaxies, profiling key sidekicks, servants, saviors, murder machines, cyborgs, and others in every genre. In-depth features cover special focus topics, such as robots in art and fashion, video games and comics, and music. This richly illustrated collection deftly shows how we have defined and redefined robots, why they capture our imagination, and why they’re here to stay, ending with a look at real-life robots from early prototypes to what lies in our robotic future.

Out November 10th.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Video: Back to the Future in ACTUAL 2015

It's October 21st, 2015, the day Marty McFly goes to in Back to the Future II.  But the future he sees isn't what we're living, so the fine people at College Humor have updated the film to make it more accurate.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Book Review: The Apex Book of World SF 4 Edited by Mahvesh Murad

Pros: wide variety of authors and subgenres, several excellent stories

Cons: several confusing stories, no grouping together of similar stories

The 28 stories in this collection are written by authors from around the world, covering a number of SFF genres.  While most of the stories were good to excellent, I found a few to be rather confusing (a state which may have cleared up with further readings in some cases).  There’s no theme connecting the stories and they’re not gathered in any order, which is a bit disorienting, as you can read a story about spaceships followed by local mythology followed by post-apocalyptic followed by another spaceship story.  Gathering the SF, horror and fantasy stories together would have created a more cohesive feeling to the collection.  The anthology is a great jumping off point for finding authors as several contributors have novels out now or coming soon.

Stories are highly subjective, so while I’ve rated them, pay more attention to the mini synopses to see if the stories would appeal to you than to my ratings.  

Not all of the stories appealed to me, but I thought the majority were quite good to excellent, making this a worthwhile collection if you’re looking for something different.

"The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family" by Usman T Malik (Pakistan)
***1/2 In the aftermath of a tragedy, Tara Khan seeks knowledge, in order to understand herself and work for a better world. - 
This is a story of how violence begets violence, and only knowledge and love can stop violence from consuming the world. 

"Setting Up Home" by Sabrina Huang (Taiwan) (Translated by Jeremy Tiang)
***** A young man starts finding furnishings appearing both inside and outside his apartment, with no idea of his benefactor. -
Quite short but with a delightfully creepy ending.

"The Gift of Touch" by Chinelo Onwualu (Nigeria)
** The three passengers Bruno’s ship takes on for much needed money turn out to be very different from the farmers they claimed they were. - 
I found the story interesting but the execution a bit heavy handed. There’s some expository conversations that felt forced (Marley’s love of guns, their smuggling past), and Horns’ past somehow only comes up now, during this crisis situation, rather than the interview when she was hired (I can understand her hiding part of her past and Bruno being ok with that, but it sounds like he never asked about anything she did before coming to work for him, and that’s just not believable). 

"The Language of Knives” by Haralambi Markov (Bulgaria)
***** Together with your apprentice daughter, you carve up your recently deceased husband into cakes for the gods.
- A creepy premise that’s handled with care. It’s a touching story of dealing with loss, connecting with the past, and healing relationships.

"In Her Head, In Her Eyes" by Yukimi Ogawa (Japan)
***** Hase wears a heavy pot on her head, covering her eyes.  The household she is staying with to learn new patterns to bring to her home mistreats her, especially the wives of the older two sons. Only the youngest son treats her kindly.
- A fun, creepy story about being careful how you treat others.

"The Farm" by Elana Gomel (Israel)
**** A comrade rides to a farm looking for food he can confiscate for his commune.  
- The eaters are quite terrifying and the slow build up to the ending really works.

"The Last Hours of The Final Days" by Bernardo Fernández (Mexico) (Translated by the author)
**** Aida and Wok slowly travel through post-apocalyptic cities by motorcycle, skateboard, foot and car while they await the end of the world.
- A surprisingly upbeat post-apocalyptic story.

"The Boy Who Cast No Shadow" by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Netherlands) (Translated by Laura Vroomen)
***** The strange friendship between Look, a boy with no shadow, and Splinter, a boy made of glass.
- A brilliant but sad story of bullying and finding yourself.  Has some adult content.

"First, Bite Just a Finger" by Johann Thorsson (Iceland)
***** After taking a drug at a party and witnessing a guy do a strange party trick, Julia develops a terrible addiction.
- Really, really creepy.

"The Eleven Holy Numbers of the Mechanical Soul" by Natalia Theodoridou (Greece)
**** An old man, marooned on an oceanic planet, creates his own animals for company.
- An interesting story about survival and the nature of a soul.

"Djinns Live by the Sea" by Saad Z. Hossain (Bangaldesh)
**** A rich business man feigns sanity after 8 months of being haunted by a djinn. 
- An interesting interpretation of djinn. Limited description.

"How My Father Became a God" by Dilman Dila (Uganda)
***** A girl, whose father has been banished from the family’s homestead for wasting money on failed inventions, needs him to succeed at something to help her avoid an arranged marriage.
- Interesting characters and a fascinating belief system.

"Black Tea" by Samuel Marolla (Italy) (Translated by Andrew Tanzi)
***** Four men are trapped in a nightmarish landscape of old hallways, empty rooms and stairs leading nowhere, being hunted by a creature masquerading as an old lady.
- You feel Nicola’s confusion as he tries to figure out where he is and what’s going on.  The horror begins with a note he finds in his pocket.

"Tiger Baby" by JY Yang (Singapore)
***1/2 Felicity is an office worker who knows she is meant to be more, more free, more… feline.
- Lyrical writing and a slowly unfolding story.

“Jinki & the Paradox” by Sathya Stone (Sri Lanka) 
***1/2 Jinki’s family lives on an experimental colony set up by aliens.
- I really liked the trickster robot and puzzling out what Jinki is.

"Colour Me Grey" by Swabir Silayi (Kenya)
**** The protagonist lives in a world devoid of colour, protected by a wall erected by the Man and his descendants.
- A quick dystopian tale.

"Like A Coin Entrusted in Faith" by Shimon Adaf (Israel) (Translated by the author)
*** Correspondences between someone in Israel and a woman in the US who’s helping train an AI, tell the tale a midwife who helps birth a stillborn demon.
- I found this story fairly confusing. The format shifts between narrative, emails, and play dialogue, didn’t help.  While I thought it added to the story to have some phrases in Jewish Moroccan (and one in Aramaic), having the translations on the last page of the story rather than at the end of each short chapter (where they would have been easier to find/flip to) was annoying.  I did find the mythology mentioned really interesting and would have liked to learn more about it.

"Single Entry" by Celeste Rita Baker (Virgin Islands)
**** A special busker act at Carnival.
- Told in dialect, the story is both triumphant and a little sad. 

"The Good Matter" by Nene Ormes (Sweden) (Translated by Lisa J Isaksson and Nene Ormes)
*** A antiques dealer with a special gift makes a purchase for something he’s been hunting for for years.
- This is a story set in the world of the author’s novels, and entices one to read more.

"Pepe" by Tang Fei (China) (Translated by John Chu)
*** Two mechanical children who can only speak to tell stories, visit an amusement park.
-There’s a lot of repetition and circular logic, which made the story less clear to me.

"Six Things We Found During The Autopsy" by Kuzhali Manickavel (India)
** Six inexplicable objects found on a woman’s body during her autopsy.
- I give this story 2 stars for the section on angels, which I found hilarious.  The rest of the story was too bizarre for my tastes. 

"The Symphony of Ice and Dust" by Julie Novakova (Czech Republic)
**** An exploratory spaceship arrives at Sedna, a dwarf moon where thousands of years earlier, two other spaceships crashed.
- A story of multiple discoveries and how humans and science have evolved.

"The Lady of the Soler Colony" by Rocío Rincón Fernández (Spain) (Translated by James and Marian Womack)
**** The narrator’s family works at the Soler textile colony, passing by the metallic statue of the Lady every day.  Until the day the factory it fronts, collapses.
- An interesting story, though a few aspects left me confused. 

"The Four Generations of Chang E" by Zen Cho (Malaysia)
***** Chang E wins the moon lottery, immigrating there.  But her descendants face different challenges because of her decision.
- An exploration of immigration and how it feels to be different. 

"Pockets Full of Stones" by Vajra Chandrasekera (Sri Lanka)
***** A woman takes a job on a relay station between Earth and a colony ship to speak with her colonist grandfather.
- A story about family that has an alien twist.

"The Corpse" by Sese Yane (Kenya)
* A middle aged man passes away while riding the bus.
- I found this story boring and rather pointless.

"Sarama" by Deepak Unnikrishnan (The Emirates)
**** A man tells of his family’s forest demon ancestry as related to him by his grandmother.
- A fascinating story based on the Ramayana, of war and revenge. Adult content. 

"A Cup of Salt Tears" by Isabel Yap (Philippines)
***** Makino goes to an onsen at night to help alleviate her sorrow over her dying husband and encounters a kappa, a water demon.

 - I enjoy kappa mythology and this one takes an interesting turn.

Sunday 18 October 2015

Shout-Out: Rune of the Apprentice by Jamison Stone

This book has hit the funding threshold on Inkshares and is in the process of being published.

In a world where magic, technology, and nature have merged, the few who can control Runes hold dominance over all of creation. All naturally believe that Aleksi, a sixteen-year-old orphan, was blessed to be born with a Rune embedded in his palm, but that’s only because they don’t know the truth—Aleksi’s Rune is so powerful, it’s killing him.

Asura, a brutal emperor who uses Runes to conquer entire continents, will stop at nothing to kill Aleksi and claim the boy’s power for his own. With his Rune burning its way through his body and assassins trying to cut out his heart, Aleksi is forced to seek out an infamous man wanted for crimes against humanity: Aleksi’s missing mentor, Rudra.

With visions of his parents’ murder haunting his days and the prophetic whispers of a young captive priestess illuminating his nights, Aleksi will only be able to unravel the mysteries of his past, rescue the girl in his dreams, and defeat the most powerful warlord the world has ever known if the one thing keeping Aleksi alive—his Rune—does not kill him first.

Friday 16 October 2015

Movie Review: The Martin

Directed by: Ridley Scott, 2015

Pros: brilliant performance, shows all the people behind the scenes of a space mission, accurate science for most of the film

Cons: not as tense if you’ve read the book, ending diverges

When Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is left behind on Mars by his fellow Ares 3 crew during a ferocious sand storm, he must work hard to survive until a rescue attempt can be made.

This is a wonderful man against nature story closely adapted from the novel by Andy Weir.  It shows the resilience and determination of someone faced with terrible odds, told with a wry sense of humour and, when things inevitably go wrong, despair followed by renewed hope. 

Matt Damon gives an amazing performance as Watney, showing a full gamut of emotions.  I was also impressed by the supporting cast, particularly Donald Glover as the astrophysicist who figures out an important solution.  I loved that the cast was large and diverse, showing both the number of people necessary to run space missions and the fact that space should be a global endeavour, not run or controlled by a single nation. 

While the storm that forces the crew off of Mars isn’t scientifically accurate, most of the rest of the things that happen in the film are (with the noted exceptions of the ‘Iron Man’ manoeuvre at the end of the film and the spaciousness of the Hermes). 

If you’ve read the book the film isn’t as tense, since you know what’s going to happen.  The film also trims out some of the crises Watney faces in the novel.  Having said that, they did an excellent job adapting the source material, keeping Watney’s sense of humour as well as showing all the dangers he faces.  There was a bit of unnecessary repetition at times with relaying messages, where both the writer and reader would say the same lines out loud.  On the other hand, I liked how they showed the NASA team testing things on earth at the same time Watney’s doing them on Mars.

There’s a bit of divergence in the ending.  The film’s does something unscientific but then has a better denouement than the book.

I saw the film in 3D.  I wasn’t thrilled with the 3D format I saw it in (polarized glasses), as it took my eyes several minutes to adjust to the effect, and later in the film I had to adjust to it again a few times (not sure this is a criticism of the film or the glasses as I’ve never had this happen before and I’ve seen several 3D movies with different glasses).  The effects, though not filmed for 3D worked well with the technology.  The first time you see the Hermes space ship is magnificent.  There’s a decent number of shots that gave good depth of field to make it worth the extra if you like 3D.

I thought the Ares Live marketing campaign for the film was brilliantly done.  I also appreciated that the footage in those trailers wasn't in the film.  The videos added to the film if you saw them, but weren't required to enjoy the film itself.

If you like science in your movies, give this a go.  It’s very well filmed and highly entertaining.

Thursday 15 October 2015

Shout-Out: The Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman

The secret is, vampires are real and I am one.
The secret is, I’m stealing from you what is most truly yours and I’m not sorry...
New York City in 1978 is a dirty, dangerous place to live. And die. Joey Peacock knows this as well as anybody—he has spent the last forty years as an adolescent vampire, perfecting the routine he now enjoys: womanizing in punk clubs and discotheques, feeding by night, and sleeping by day with others of his kind in the macabre labyrinth under the city’s sidewalks.
The subways are his playground and his highway, shuttling him throughout Manhattan to bleed the unsuspecting in the Sheep Meadow of Central Park or in the backseats of Checker cabs, or even those in their own apartments who are too hypnotized by sitcoms to notice him opening their windows. It’s almost too easy.
Until one night he sees them hunting on his beloved subway. The children with the merry eyes. Vampires, like him…or not like him. Whatever they are, whatever their appearance means, the undead in the tunnels of Manhattan are not as safe as they once were.
And neither are the rest of us.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Video: To Scale: The Solar System

Wylie Overstreet, Alex Gorosh and a group of their friends take to the Nevada desert to drive cars, making a to scale model of the solar system.

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Book Review: The New Hunger by Isaac Marion

Sixteen year old Nora is looking after her younger brother, keeping them both alive as they wander the wasteland that used to be the United States of America.  Somehow, despite the horrors they’ve witnessed, her brother’s held on to a sense of morality about how to treat others.

Twelve year old Julie Grigio is travelling with her parents, looking for the safe haven mentioned in the Almanac.  But the Almanac is several months old, and news travels slowly while the zombie plague and other dangers spread much faster.

A dead man awakens near a river, unaware of everything.  But as time passes, he remembers bits of his former life, even as a hunger starts to overtake him.

This is a prequel novella to Marion’s zombie novel Warm Bodies.  It’s a self-contained story so if you haven’t read the book, like me, you’ll have no trouble following along or enjoying the story.  

It’s a pretty bleak tale, with some disturbing imagery (including some short but rather disgusting descriptions that I could have done without), but there’s an underlying message of hope, that even when things are at their worst, some people continue to see the good in others and fight for a better world.

While on the longer side for a novella, it’s still impressive how invested in the character you become.  They’re well fleshed out and interesting, with quirks, hopes and fears.

I’ve seen the film version of Warm Bodies, but this novella makes me want to read the book.

Sunday 11 October 2015

Shout-Out: Battlemage by Stephen Aryan

"I can command storms, summon fire and unmake stone," Balfruss growled. "It's dangerous to meddle with things you don't understand."
Balfruss is a battlemage, sworn to fight and die for a country that fears and despises his kind.
Vargus is a common soldier -- while mages shoot lightning from the walls of the city, he's down in the front lines getting blood on his blade.
Talandra is a princess and spymaster, but the war may force her to risk everything and make the greatest sacrifice of all.
Magic and mayhem collide in this explosive epic fantasy from a major new talent.

Thursday 8 October 2015

Shout-Out: The Faithful by S. M. Freedman

For Agent Josh Metcalf, memories are ghosts. They are blood-soaked backpacks and the smell of strawberry Chap Stick. Josh is haunted by a little girl who went missing his first summer on the force. Decades later his search has become an obsession, and he's pinned the photos of hundreds of missing children to his wall of tears. All the children had psychic abilities. All the cases went cold -- with no witnesses, no useful tips, and no children ever recovered. Until a woman gets injured trying to stop an abduction, and Josh comes face to face with his personal ghost. 
For Rowan Wilson, a meteorite hunter for NASA's Spaceguard program, memories are lies. The childhood she thought she knew has been erased, leaving a black hole in its place. New recollections are flaring to life: men dressed like priests, a ranch in the mountains, mind control, and rape. Each new memory draws her closer to one of the other missing children, Sumner Macey; and to I Fidele, the underground organization for whom kidnapping is just the beginning.
For Sumner, memories have become weapons. He's sharpened each of his with surgical precision: the ranch, the doctrine, the mind-wash, and the murders. He's eager to slice at the black sludge pumping through I Fidele's heart, desperate to cripple those who stole his childhood.
To I Fidele, non-psychics are cockroaches in need of extermination, an inferior species destroying the earth. They're ready to enforce eugenics on a global scale. If they succeed, only those faithful to their doctrine will survive. 

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Video: Five Nights at Freddy's Live Action Music Video

I really enjoy watching Screen Team's music video parodies.  Since all the DMCA takedowns become more common they've started doing more original music.  They've done a remarkable job with this Five Nights at Freddy's music video.  It's the right mix of creepiness.

Tuesday 6 October 2015

Book Review: All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

Translated by: Joseph Reeder with Alexander Smith

Pros: great sense of perspective, deals cleverly with repeating days

Cons: starts in the middle of the action so it’s harder to get a grasp of the situation

When Keiji Kiriya dies in his first battle with the alien Mimics he doesn’t expect to wake up the previous morning as if those days were just a dream.  He quickly realizes that time is repeating and decides to train hard and become a great Jacket jockey like Rita Vrataski, aka the Valkyrie, aka the Full Metal Bitch.

This novel was the basis for the film Edge of Tomorrow, which I thought was really well done.  Sure, the ending didn’t make much sense, but it was a fun film.  The ending in the book is different, and does make sense.

You get point of view chapters from both Keiji and, later on, Rita, which help put you into the action and understand why those two act the way they do.  They’re interesting characters, with a lot of supporting characters around them that you get to know fairly well.

There’s enough exposition to understand the armoured suits the soldiers wear (the Jackets) and the alien menace, but beyond that there are only snippets here and there about how the world has coped with the war and how Keiji and Rita ended up enlisting.

While a few days are heavily detailed, the majority are skipped outright, giving you a good impression of time passing and Keiji learning how to fight without becoming boring or repetitive.

It’s an action packed story that’s also a quick read at just under 200 pages.

Sunday 4 October 2015

Shout-Out: Last Song Before Night by Ilana Myer

Her name was Kimbralin Amaristoth: sister to a cruel brother, daughter of a hateful family. But that name she has forsworn, and now she is simply Lin, a musician and lyricist of uncommon ability in a land where women are forbidden to answer such callings-a fugitive who must conceal her identity or risk imprisonment and even death.

On the eve of a great festival, Lin learns that an ancient scourge has returned to the land of Eivar, a pandemic both deadly and unnatural. Its resurgence brings with it the memory of an apocalypse that transformed half a continent. Long ago, magic was everywhere, rising from artistic expression-from song, from verse, from stories. But in Eivar, where poets once wove enchantments from their words and harps, the power was lost. Forbidden experiments in blood divination unleashed the plague that is remembered as the Red Death, killing thousands before it was stopped, and Eivar's connection to the Otherworld from which all enchantment flowed, broken.

The Red Death's return can mean only one thing: someone is spilling innocent blood in order to master dark magic. Now poets who thought only to gain fame for their songs face a challenge much greater: galvanized by Valanir Ocune, greatest Seer of the age, Lin and several others set out to reclaim their legacy and reopen the way to the Otherworld-a quest that will test their deepest desires, imperil their lives, and decide the future.

Saturday 3 October 2015

News: Angry Robot Announces Open Door for Submissions in December

Have a polished manuscript and looking for a publisher?  Well, starting December 1 and going until January 31st, Angry Robot Books will open its door to unsolicited manuscript submissions.

From their email:

We are looking for full-length novels. Not novellas, poems, short stories or similar. Please, only full-length novels.

We're pretty broad in our tastes, genre-wise. We love anything science fiction, fantasy or WTF. If it's a spaghetti western set in space with pirates, we're down for that. We aren't down for Young Adult titles at this time. Sorry.
Diverse Voices: We Want You!

Anyone who has written a thoroughly entertaining, full-length science fiction or fantasy novel is more than welcome to submit to us during the open door, um, window.

We do want to mention the following though. We appreciate diversity at Angry Robot. Our track record at AR speaks for itself, but we can do even better. We also know that writers from diverse backgrounds are sometimes hesitant to submit. So we’re saying this in big letters:

We want to explicitly invite writers from diverse backgrounds and lived experiences to submit to this Open Door.

Several of our most commercially and critically-successful books have come from writers speaking from diverse backgrounds and/or about diverse characters.

This genre belongs to everyone, and we at Angry Robot want to be a part of making that maxim true in practice by championing diverse voices and helping them reach a wide audience.

So everyone, send us your best work. Show us worlds real and imagined with all their glorious complexity and diversity, that reflects the reality of today’s culture.

More information, including a FAQ section, will go up on their website soon.

Friday 2 October 2015

Publisher Spotlight: Evil Girlfriend Media

Established in 2011, Evil Girlfriend Media publishes sci-fi, fantasy and horror.  Their line-up right now includes several short story collections (both by a single author and edited anthologies).  They've got a bunch of short stories published on their website that you can read for free.  While they're currently closed for manuscript submissions, they're open to flash fiction and non-fiction shorts.

Here's a sampling of their current titles:

The Archivist by Tom Wright

In 2052, Artificial Intelligence surpasses humans, and global technology collapses overnight. Thirty years later, primitive communities struggle to survive. Throughout this broken world, a secret organization called The Archives seeks to preserve what knowledge and technology has been left in the ashes. However, a Luddite cult-The Disciples of Earth-is just as determined to ensure there will be no technological rebirth for humankind. 
Retrieval Archivist K’Marr’s mission seems : make contact with a source in a remote port town and trade vital technology that could secure humankind’s future.
But few retrievals are ever easy. 
While keeping his promise to a dying man and avoiding Disciples who seem to know his every move, K’Marr fights to complete his mission and get back home to the woman he loves. Against the odds, The Archivist must do everything he can to return to The Archives.

Women In Practical Armor Edited by Ed Greenwood and Gabrielle Harbowy

Eighteen stories of seasoned women warriors fighting in practical armor. 
Steve Bornstein – “Serendipity”
Cassandra Rose Clarke – “A Night in New Verashtin”
Erik Scott de Bie – “King’s Shield”
Kristy Griffin Green – “The Family Business”
Amy Griswold – “The Raven and the Swans”
Sarah Hendrix – “Hero of Ithar”
Crystal Lynn Hilbert – “Stone Woken”
Chris A. Jackson – “First Command”
Mary Robinette Kowal – “The Bound Man”
Eric Landreneau – “Pride and Joy”
Wunji Lau – “No Better Armor, No Heavier Burden”
Todd McCaffrey – “Golden”
Rhonda Parrish – “Sharp as a Griffin’s Claw”
Anya Penfold – “The Lioness”
Mary Pletsch – “The Blood Axe”
Alex C. Renwick – “Ravenblack”
David Szarzynski – “Armor the Color of War”
Judith Tarr – “Attrition”

Stamps, Vamps & Tramps Edited by Shannon Robinson

Eternally stamped, eternally damned… 
Grecian prostitutes and blood guzzling birds, pickle-sized vampires who wear their hearts on their sleeves, sexy immortals that fear human greed and memories that become tattoos; Stamps, Vamps & Tramps crosses genres to deliver bone-chilling stories that will keep you up at night. 
Sixteen talented authors take you on a journey where stamps aren’t always inked, tramps aren’t always hookers, and vampires aren’t always at the top of the food chain. From the colonnade of ancient Greece to a small town amusement park, from the battlefield to the urban center, this anthology will suck you in to the very end.

Thursday 1 October 2015

Books Received in September 2015

Many thanks again to those who have given me books this past month.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson - This is a brilliant novel that shows how powerful economics really is.  I've already reviewed it.

In Seth Dickinson's highly-anticipated debut The Traitor Baru Cormorant, a young woman from a conquered people tries to transform an empire in this richly imagined geopolitical fantasy.

Baru Cormorant believes any price is worth paying to liberate her people-even her soul.

When the Empire of Masks conquers her island home, overwrites her culture, criminalizes her customs, and murders one of her fathers, Baru vows to swallow her hate, join the Empire's civil service, and claw her way high enough to set her people free.

Sent as an Imperial agent to distant Aurdwynn, another conquered country, Baru discovers it's on the brink of rebellion. Drawn by the intriguing duchess Tain Hu into a circle of seditious dukes, Baru may be able to use her position to help. As she pursues a precarious balance between the rebels and a shadowy cabal within the Empire, she orchestrates a do-or-die gambit with freedom as the prize.

But the cost of winning the long game of saving her people may be far greater than Baru imagines.

The New Hunger by Isaac Marion - This is a prequel novella to the hit zombie novel (and film) Warm Bodies.

The end of the world didn’t happen overnight.
After years of societal breakdowns, wars and quakes and rising tides, humanity was already near the edge. Then came a final blow no one could have expected: all the world’s corpses rising up to make more.
Born into this bleak and bloody landscape, twelve-year-old Julie struggles to hold on to hope as she and her parents drive across the wastelands of America, a nightmarish road trip in search of a new home.
Hungry, lost, and scared, sixteen-year-old Nora finds herself her brother’s sole guardian after her parents abandon them in the not-quite-empty ruins of Seattle.
And in the darkness of a forest, a dead man opens his eyes. Who is he? What is he? With no clues beyond a red tie and the letter “R,” he must unravel the grim mystery of his existence—right after he learns how to think, how to walk, and how to satisfy the monster howling in his belly.The New Hunger is a glimpse of the past and a path to an astonishing future…

The Apex Book of World SF 4 Edited by Mahvesh Murad - I won this book through a LibraryThing giveaway.  I've heard a lot of great things about this collection and am really looking forward to reading it.

Now firmly established as the benchmark anthology series of international speculative fiction, volume 4 of The Apex Book of World SF sees debut editor Mahvesh Murad bring fresh new eyes to her selection of stories.
From Spanish steampunk and Italian horror to Nigerian science fiction and subverted Japanese folktales, from love in the time of drones to teenagers at the end of the world, the stories in this volume showcase the best of contemporary speculative fiction, wherever it’s written.
Vajra Chandrasekera (Sri Lanka) — "Pockets Full of Stones"
Yukimi Ogawa (Japan) — "In Her Head, In Her Eyes"
Zen Cho (Malaysia) — "The Four Generations of Chang E"
Shimon Adaf (Israel) — "Like a Coin Entrusted in Faith" (Translated by the author)
Celeste Rita Baker (Virgin Islands) — "Single Entry"
Nene Ormes (Sweden) — "The Good Matter" (Translated by Lisa J Isaksson and Nene Ormes)
JY Yang (Singapore) — "Tiger Baby"
Isabel Yap (Philippines) — "A Cup of Salt Tears"
Usman T Malik (Pakistan) — "The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family"
Kuzhali Manickavel (India) — "Six Things We Found During the Autopsy"
Elana Gomel (Israel) — "The Farm"
Haralambi Markov (Bulgaria) — "The Language of Knives"
Sabrina Huang — "Setting Up Home" (Translated by Jeremy Tiang)
Sathya Stone (Sri Lanka) — "Jinki and the Paradox"
Johann Thorsson (Iceland) — "First, Bite a Finger"
Dilman Dila (Uganda) — "How My Father Became a God"
Swabir Silayi (Kenya) — "Colour Me Grey"
Deepak Unnikrishnan (The Emirates) — "Sarama"
Chinelo Onwualu (Nigeria) — "The Gift of Touch"
Saad Z. Hossain (Bangaldesh) — "Djinns Live by the Sea"
Bernardo Fernández (Mexico) — "The Last Hours of the Final Days" (Translated by the author)
Natalia Theodoridou (Greece) — "The Eleven Holy Numbers of the Mechanical Soul"
Samuel Marolla (Italy) — "Black Tea" (Translated by Andrew Tanzi)
Julie Novakova (Czech Republic) — "The Symphony of Ice and Dust"
Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Netherlands) — "The Boy Who Cast No Shadow" (Translated by Laura Vroomen)
Sese Yane (Kenya) — "The Corpse"
Tang Fei — "Pepe" (Translated by John Chu)
Rocío Rincón (Spain) — "The Lady of the Soler Colony" (Translated by James and Marian Womack)