Monthly Archives: February 2012

A literary update…

As detailed in previous posts, I have been devoting much of my leisure time to reading of late – games and films have taken a back seat (although I did play through the “Mass Effect 3” demo on 360 and loved it).

To bring you entirely up to date, this week I have somehow found time to read…

“Triumff – Her Majesty’s Hero” by Dan Abnett (Angry Robot books), “Nekropolis” by Tim Waggoner (Angry Robot) and “Changeless” by Gail Carriger (Orbit books).

Triumff - a swiss army knife of a book...

“Triumff” is best described as a ‘Blackadder’-like, alternate history swashbuckler with the titular hero inadvertently and grudgingly fighting a conspiracy to kill the Queen in a Britain where the Empire never quite ended, magic is very real and puns are as lethal as a good blade.

Dan Abnett knows swashbuckling and is – I would argue – without peer when it comes to large-scale action sequences.  He’s also genuinely funny and possessed of a gift for the pun which staggers the mind and emboldens the heart.  This is a great romp – in the very best sense of the word – and is highly recommended to you if you enjoy adventure, invention (there’s a prodigious hit rate of ideas and some very cool world building in this novel), comedy and character.

My limbs are falling off - your argument is invalid.

Tim Waggoner’s “Nekropolis” is the first in his series of supernatural detective novels featuring former human cop and reluctant zombie P.I., Matt Richter.

This is a book where the cover directed me to take a punt with it and I’m glad that I did – this is a really enjoyable tale of mystery, murder, drugs and mayhem in a world of the dead so off-kilter and matter-of-factly strange that it makes Tim Burton’s films look like an episode of “EastEnders”.

Richter inhabits the titular city of Nekropolis, where the dead, the undead, the uncanny and the archetypal creatures of the horror genre exist in an uneasy détente – everybody wants to rule the place, be it vampires, werewolves, ghosts or the otherwise living-impaired, but no one creature can gain full control.

If you like your horror fiction scary but not gross, your detective hard-boiled but essentially decent with it and your romantic lead to be steadily decomposing, you should think about giving this book a try.

If you have engineer's goggles, prepare to don them...

Finally this week, I read Gail Carriger‘s second instalment of her ‘Parasol Protectorate‘ series, “Changeless”.

When talking about the first novel in the series, “Soulless”, I did raise some minor misgivings that I had regarding the contemporary idioms used in the book, which I felt took me out of the otherwise delightful world that Ms Carriger has created.  Those issues still remain in the second book – would it kill the editors of the UK edition to replace the word ‘stoop’ with the word ‘step’ when a scene depicts somebody waiting outside a house? – but I was able to put them firmly to one side and concentrate on enjoying the second steampunk romantic adventure for Alexia Tarrabotti, the now Lady Maccon and erstwhile preternatural at large for Queen Victoria.

Some reviews of this book took issue with storytelling decisions which separate characters for large sections of the narrative and with an ending which left me feeling oddly bereft and exclaiming to the delightful Mrs Rolling Eyeballs “You can’t end a book like that!  That’s like the climax of  “The Empire Strikes Back”, that is!”.

I know why people feel like that – by this point, you don’t want anything too terrible to happen to Alexia, Ivy, Lord Maccon and the cast – but I feel that the decisions that Carriger made with her second novel were very much for the best and ultimately made it a far more compelling tale than the first book was.

Partly this could be because a large part of the action is set in Scotland, which I love dearly.  Partly it could be due to the fact that the steampunk elements in this book are really well-balanced and cleverly integrated into the story – there are gadgets and stylistic inclusions which add to the sense of the world being drawn before you and don’t detract from the story moving along.

And move along it does – this is a book which is pacy but never breathless and leaves you absolutely needing to start the next book in the series as soon as you put “Changeless” down.  I venture that for some folks this will absolutely be a ‘one-sitting’ read and no higher recommendation can I give it than that.

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“Danger 5” – Nazi Dinosaurs Are GO!

Even insomnia’s wretched grasp can’t make this post any less awesome.

What, you've never seen a man-sized avian with a neat blazer before?

Thanks to the stealthy internet ninjas of NeoGaf, I present to you the wonderful, glorious, incomparable trailer for “Danger 5” – the new project from the visionaries who previously brought you “Italian Spiderman”.

James Cameron-level effects work is easy - letting the wires show is hardcore...

Think ‘Gerry Anderson meets the guys who make “Archer” ably assisted by Trey Parker and Matt Stone whilst doing copious amounts of instant espresso straight out of the jar’ and then sit back and delight in the wonder which ensues.

Sometimes, a picture's natural beauty cannot be captioned...

You can see more at the Danger 5 website – and on Dinosaur Worldwide’s YouTube page.

 

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Game to close 43 outlets.

Sad times for UK video games retailer Game, who’ve announced that they will be closing 43 outlets amidst tough trading conditions on the British high street.

Game. Use 'em whilst you've got them?

All of their Debenhams concessions are going, six Gamestation shops and 12 Game stores will close – Bitter Wallet’s story estimates that 247 people will be made redundant.

There are a lot of reasons which we can attribute for this – the UK high street is currently brutal, people are buying games online if they buy them at all, the ubiquity of Game and Gamestation stores in Britain is a factor (the branch of Gamestation in Sheffield city centre used to be a thirty-second walk from the Game concession which closed in Debenhams last year).  There’s that crappy global economy, too, which isn’t helping anybody.

Want to buy "The Last Story" at Game? There could be a problem or two with that...

In other news for the troubled retailer, following the news that Ubisoft‘s PS Vita games were not being stocked in the launch week for the Sony hand-held console (supplier credit issues have been cited) comes a Eurogamer story about pre-orders for Nintendo’s “The Last Story” being cancelled and pre-orders refunded to gamers.

Yep, things are looking positively blooming for the UK’s biggest video games retailer…

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Edgar Wright to direct “Kolchak” film?

We already knew that a film remake of seventies TV series “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” was on Johnny Depp’s plate – now we know that Edgar Wright may be directing the thing to within an inch of its life and adding a special layer of Fried Gold on top.

Edgar and zombie cohort, shortly before commencement of 12-inch single flinging smackdown...

As eager-eyed visitors to this blog may be aware, I very much heart Edgar Wright and his work – he’s up there with Ridley Scott and Michael Mann to me, as a film maker with a signature visual style:  You know a Wright movie when you see it.

And that’s what makes his hiring interesting – I couldn’t pick out anything in “Spaced”, “Shaun of The Dead”, “Hot Fuzz” or “Scott Pilgrim Versus The World” which would say “Hire this dude to make a period-set, neo-Gothic thriller”, so the prospect of him helming the “Kolchak” adaptation perhaps suggests that Johnny Depp and co are looking to do something different with their take.

Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak

The project at the centre of this announcement is pretty cool, too – “Kolchak – The Night Stalker” was a seventies TV scarefest which pitted news reporter Carl Kolchak against the forces of supernatural evil (let’s hope that the remake doesn’t go all contemporary and make him the host of one of those goofy SyFy “Ghost Hunters”-type shows) and was a big influence on “The X-Files”, which at least some of you reading this won’t be old enough to remember.

Thank you for making me feel bloody old.  Cheers.

No screenplay is yet in place, so I can’t see this one hitting cinemas much before 2014 – which should give Wright time to work on “The World’s End” a bit more, eh?  Sweet.

 

 

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“Borderlands 2” trailer – dubstepped for your pleasure

Borderlands 2. Gunnier than ever before.

If you enjoyed Gearbox’s splendidly insane RPG shooter “Borderlands”, you’ll be very cheered up by a look at the trailer for the second instalment, due in your local emporium from September 2012.

"Borderlands 2" - now with much less violence. Ahem...

Same art style, new characters, more gun parts to craft and combine, the return of a lovely dancing friend and more mayhem than can reasonably be fitted comfortably into three minutes – I’d say that it’s worth a look.

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“Doctor Who” season 7 begins filming…

I'm putting the old band back together...

We don’t know when it’s going to air, exactly how many episodes will be in it or how it will tie into the 50th anniversary of the series next year – but we do know that season seven of “Doctor Who” has begun filming in Cardiff.

Huzzah!

The smart money has it that we’ll see at least some episodes this Autumn with the normal Christmas special, and the remainder of the run showing up in the early part of 2013.   How this fits into the BBC’s 50th anniversary plans is anybody’s guess.

If you want more guff on writers, directors and guest stars – Mark Williams, anybody? – why not head over to SFX magazine’s comprehensive coverage here…

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“A Game of Thrones” – To Torrent, or not to Torrent?

We've all been there, haven't we?

From The Oatmeal’s comic – “I tried to watch Game of Thrones…”.

Of course, you could always just be patient and wait for the DVD box set, but that’s not quite as fun, is it?

Older blogger snarking aside – try waiting a year for a movie to possibly be released on VHS rental tape and THEN come and complain to me about not being able to see the stuff that you want to see when you want to see it – this comic nicely bashes the nail on the old proverbial.

Big Media companies want to create desire for their product, so that it has a ready-made audience who’ll pay to consume it.  Then, via a combination of arrogance, shortsightedness and media rights deals structures which are so last century that it pains me to think of them, a large part of that eager audience is cut out of the picture.

Can’t afford to/don’t want to subscribe to a cable/pay tv package?  You’re screwed.  Have the misfortune to live in a country deemed unlikely to have an audience for the product?  You’re boned.  And as we geo-lock everything anyway and you’re not in the US, we don’t care about you anyway.

I never excuse piracy and what Big Media would term IP theft (is it still theft if there’s no legal way to acquire something?), but I can certainly understand why hardcore genre fans sometimes resort to it – if you can’t legally watch it via pay TV and there’s no streaming option, no physical media to import and you want to see it, are you supposed to just say “Bugger it!” and not bother?

At that point, a tv series has gone from being an entertainment to becoming a nerd-friendly quest with an entirely achievable end game – downloaded content on a hard drive – which takes money out of the creator’s pockets, out of the distribution system and makes the process of making television, films and games that bit tougher.

A simple solution – make it easier to buy your product, before Hollywood and it’s antiquated business model ends up being as decimated as the music business was by P2P sharing.

 

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