June 30, 2010

Wish List Wednesday #53: Handling the Undead

Wish List Wednesday is a weekly meme I started back in July '09, in which I put the spotlight on a book that is on my wish list--whether new release, blast from the past, or hidden gem.

Last month I reviewed John Lindqvist's debut novel, Let the Right One In, which you can read here. The guy did a great job in exploring vampirism in a way I hadn't seen done--at least in quite a while. Turned out there was good reason why I'd mentioned that book in the very first Wish List Wednesday.

So after a full year since putting Let the Right One In on my wish list, I'm placing Lindqvist's second novel on it. A book called Handling the Undead.

Once again Lindqvist uses his home country of Sweden as the setting, but this time there are no vampires. Zombies are the undead creatures now. After a strange electrical disturbance in Stockholm, the newly dead beging to reanimate in morgues and cemeteries across the city. However, these aren't the run-of-the-mill brain-munchers you're used to, as these zombies are a bit more ordinary and try to reintegrate into society. And that's just the start of this book apparently.

This sound like the kind of book you'd be interested in reading too? Have you read it already? If so, what did you think of it?

June 29, 2010

Wag the Blog #15: My Point of View Is Slightly Askew

I thought I'd throw together one of these, as there have been quite a few blog posts to catch my eye lately, so why not share. I also found out that Book Blogger Appreciation Week is coming back in September, and since I'm a full-on book blogger these days, I signed up to participate. Not entirely sure what I'll do special to mark the occasion, but I'm sure I'll think of something. If you're a book blogger and want to check it out, you can find most of the info you'll need by clicking HERE.

For the writers out there, Lousie Bohmer posted about "Whose Head Am I In?"--a discussion on point of view. That was something I had a real problem with when I first started writing, but I've been getting much better at it. I have the occasionally slip up when there are several characters in a scene, but it'll get better over time.

Adam Blomquist's Brain Tremors has an interview with author, Nate Kenyon, who wrote one of my favorite novels so far this year, Sparrow Rock. It's a good read, so go check it out.

On Day of the Woman, Billy Bitterman guest-posted a list of his "Top Ten Ghost Movies". I was glad to see Ghostbusters get a little love on the list.

The Evening Class put me onto Midnite for Maniacs interview with Diablo Cody about her thoughts on the less-than-stellar film, Jennifer's Body. She does a pretty good job defending the film, but it'll take more to convince me that Megan Fox is talented.

Speaking of defending films, The Vault of Horror has "The Tuesday Top 10: Horror Movies That Catch a Bad Rap". I was glad to see a little love afforded to Nightbreed, which I recently mentioned in a meme about books I'd like to see sequels for. Alien 3 is a film, however, I disagree with as being under-rated--I didn't care for that one at all.

If you enjoy the new Killer Kitsch posts I've been doing this year, you ought to check out Zombies DON'T Run for a post about Plush Dolls for not only Marvel Comics characters, but some horror film icons too. The Freddy doll is creepy as heck.

And speaking of zombies, Jonathan Maberry's Big Scary Blog has a two part panel discussion about zombies in films and literature. You can find Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE.

If you want a little more zombie love, go check out The Horror Digest and Andre's question, "Day of the Dead: Why Aren't We Talking About It More?" I thought that particular Romero flick was an okay zombie flick, but I wasn't crazy about it and never felt compelled to extol it. Give Andre credit for picking up that torch.

Brutal As Hell had an interesting article about horror movies and their MPAA ratings. "Does an R Rating Signify a Better Horror Film?" There are some films discussed, each was released with a PG-13 rating, and I gotta say I was surprised at more than a couple of the movies mentioned--The Ring was rated PG? Wow.

And if you're in the mood for one more list, io9 has you covered with "13 of Science-Fiction's Baddest Convicts." Some of the characters are easy choices, like Snake Plissken, but the list includes a few dark horse picks, like Princess Leia. I gotta say, present-day Carrie Fisher strikes me as a more imposing figure than 1970s Carrie Fisher.

Rabid Reads: "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bible!" by Jonathan Goldstein

Title: Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible!
Author: Jonathan Goldstein
Published: Penguin Group (2009)
Pages: 239
ISBN 978-0-14-305654-6

Listening to Jonathan Goldstein's radio show, Wire Tap, should make you aware of how funny the guy can be. Add that with blurbs on the cover of Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible! from Susan Vowell and David Sedaris--two even funnier authors--I was quite looking forward to reading this collection of stories.

If you ever read the Bible, and you didn't believe it as the literal truth, then chances are you walked away from it with a peculiar sense of Really? when it came to some of the stories told within its pages--Noah's Arc always left me feeling perplexed and full of heretical questions, as a child. The subject matter practically begs to be satirized in one form or another, which I found done quite capably by Monty Python's Life of Brian and even Year One. And that's what Goldstein sets out to do with these stories: Offer a humorous reimagining of some of the most famous stories told within the Old Testament.

So, after reading this book, I'm kind of left wondering where all the laughs went to. Oh, it's got some humorous spots in it, alright. A couple of genuine laugh-out-loud moments too. But the majority of the book's contents felt, to me, more of an attempt to be poignant through subtle humor and even a dash of melodrama. What I was expecting before opening this book to read it--and I really should have caught myself building expectations for the book earlier--was something far more satirical and blatantly comedic. I think the book is safe from criticism of parodying the Bible with a mean-spirited intent, but the satirical elements became more sparse than I'd expected as I continued to turn pages.

Stories like "Adam and Eve" and "The Golden Calf" do a lot to really show the funnier sides to those stories, as well as weed out some of the hidden wisdom. But when it came to stories like "Samson and Delilah" and "King David," the humor really seemed to take a backseat for some reason.

I suspect in hindsight that Jonathan Goldstein was going for something a little more than just a collection of laugh lines and witticisms in this book, but I must admit to wishing that he had stuck to that. The laughs that were there were genuinely good, but the rest of it felt like those awkward moments when a stand-up comedian gets serious in the middle of his set. I came to hear punchlines, not pathos.

You can read other reviews of this book at: Literally Booked; Paperback Book Instyle

June 28, 2010

Meme, Myself, & I: Where's a Sequel When You Need One?

Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia put me onto this meme, started by Lost in Books.

The topic: Name three books you would like to see have a sequel.

This was a bit of a tough one for me because so much of what I've read has either already had a sequel written, on account of being part of a series, or the book feels so complete as a stand-alone I wouldn't dare suggest the author write a sequel to it. There are a scant few that I would genuinely enjoy seeing revisited by the author.

And they are:

Cabal by Clive Barker - I'm pretty sure Barker never wrote a follow-up to this story about an monster underworld called Mideon. If he did though, please let me know so I can go on the hunt for it. I saw the film adaptation as a young teen and considered it my favorite horror movie for years. After reading the book, I appreciated the world crafted by Barker even more, and it practically begs to tell readers more.

The Shining by Stephen King - King mused in an interview last year that he had an idea for how to go about writing a sequel to one of his most iconic works. The idea died almost as soon as he uttered it, though. Whether he went with his premise of revisiting Danny in his forties as he deals with his psychic abilities, or whether King wrote it in some other way, I would definitely be on board to read whatever the king of horror had cooked up as a sequel.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - Oh, sure, there have been plenty of authors to toy with the Frankenstein characters, but I wonder how Shelley would have gone about it. I had once thought, after reading the book, the monster survives his desolate trek into the arctic wasteland and winds up on the arctic shores of Canada seeking solitude, while the Inuit deal with his arrival. Far-fetched, yes, but consider the original subject matter. At any rate, I am forced to satiate my want of a Frankenstein sequel with Dean Koontz novels and Universal monster movie classics.

What Will Be The Next Trend In Fiction? I Think I Know.

Io9 had a fun article a little while ago called So what comes next after steampunk and zombies?

The article, written by Charlie Jane Anders, discussed some of the shared traits between novels that incorporate zombies and steampunk landscapes, as well as pointing out the interesting dichotomy of zombies showing a bleak vision of the future, while steampunk offers an almost nostalgic and optimistic view of the past. Near the end of the article, Charlie mused that whatever comes after two of the most well-worn trends in fiction right now needs to hold that essential element of escapism. I won't spoil what Charlie's guess is on what's next, but only that I don't share in the opinion.

My best guess? Well, it's obvious, isn't it?


: by Film Cow

Happy Monday, everybody.

June 25, 2010

Rabid Rewind: Taken

Title: Taken
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Femke Janssen, and Leland Orser
Director: Pierre Morel
Writers: Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Released: 20th Century Fox (2008)
Genre: Action/Thriller

"You have to see this movie!"

Those are the words impressed upon me a while back when, during a conversation about favorite films, I told a friend that I hadn't seen Taken yet. After being informed that this was one of the best movies since Braveheart, I was ordered to watch Taken lest I deprive myself of something as vital as air. Now, having seen Taken to see if was worth that hype, I realize I shouldn't have held my breath.

Liam Neeson plays a retired spy on the hunt for his somewhat-estranged teenage daughter who has been abducted in France by sex traffickers, and as I watched I quickly suspected that this was a script originally intended for Harrison Ford. The movie just had that Harrison Ford vibe, you know what I mean? A dutiful father is placed in a life-threatening situation in which he must go to extreme measures to protect his family; it's the kind of movie Ford--let's face it--is known for. But, I guess he was too busy filming that terrible Indiana Jones sequel to bother with this film, and so we get Neeson and his muddled American-ish accent.

There's not really a whole lot to say about the movie. The entire plot is preposterous and requires a fair amount of suspension of disbelief, which I can handle. I just wasn't expecting a movie that was designed less for someone of Liam Neeson's caliber than an action movie scrounged out of Sylvester Stallone's or Bruce Willis' remainder bin. Just think of Taken like this: It's what would happen if Jason Bourne got married, had a kid, then that kid got kidnapped.

It's a fun ninety minutes, don't get me wrong, but when I'm told this is the best movie since Braveheart--and that was a damned good movie, by the way--I expect a little more depth and subtext to the movie. Foolish on my part, I now realize. There are fights, chases, gun fights, more chases, and a couple of nice one-liners for Neeson. Famke Janssen appears early in the film as Neeson's ex-wife, playing the scornful wedge between father and daughter like there's no tomorrow, but her role is one of a precious few given any consideration in terms of character.

Rent it, nuke some popcorn, and enjoy. Just don't set the bar too high because Braveheart this is not.

Rabid Rewind: Ong Bak 2

Title: Ong Bak 2
Starring: Tony Jaa, Sorapong Chatree, Sarunyu Wongkrajang
Directors: Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai
Written by: Ek Iemchuen
Released: Magnet Releasing (2010); originally released by Sahamongkolfilm International (2008)
Genre: Martial Arts/Fighting

Any time I have to sit through a movie with subtitles I tell myself that I'm being multicultural. The trouble is that I spend too much time paying attention to those subtitles than the actors and scenes. With Ong Bak 2--and its predecessor for that matter--I had no such trouble since the story is simple pretext for the eye-candy fight scenes.

This movie is a prequel allegedly, though I could hardly tell and if I had never seen the first film then it wouldn't have made a difference. Where the first movie was set in the present with Jaa playing a guardian to a herd of elephants and fights his way to save a baby one, the second movie goes hundreds of years in the past where Jaa plays an orphaned prince trained to be a warrior by a band of thieves. The connection between the two films seems vicarious at best, with a couple of scenes involving elephants being the only thing to connect the two movie's stories together.

But, like I said, these movies are meant as a showcase for Tony Jaa's amazing work in fight scenes. If you were ever impressed by Jackie Chan's stunt work in his--shall we say be polite and say--action films, wait until you get a load of this kid. Like Chan, Jaa does all of his own stunts. Heck, I'm pretty sure the entire cast does their own stunts. Why bother hiring actors for these roles when they're going to be sitting out ninety percent of the scenes anyway so the stunt performers can go to work?

It's a revenge tale at it's heart. A little prince is cast out as his father is overthrown, only to grow up to be a warrior who seeks vengeance on those who wronged his family and friends. There's a nice twist at the climax of the movie, but it's probably a well-worn one in these types of films. The whole movie feels very organic, thanks to the absence of special effects and copious amounts of wire-work. It's a bunch of guys, some of whom in very cool costumes, showing off their moves for the audience.

It's an okay movie on DVD, but it's the kind of film to be seen in a large crowd at a theater so you can join in with the "oohs" and "aahs" during the action. And if you're a fight fan, chances are it won't matter how you see this one as long as you see it.

June 24, 2010

Getting Graphic: "The Surrogates: Flesh and Bone" by Robert Venditti & Brett Weldele

Title: The Surrogates: Flesh and Bone
Author: Robert Venditti
Illustrator: Brett Weldele
Published: Top Shelf (2009)
Pages: 140
ISBN 978-1-60309-018-6

One of the good things about Venditti's and Weldele's The Surrogates was that the world they created felt whole, and it felt like there was a fully realized history to that world. We didn't get to see it as readers, but through allusions to it and through character dialogue, we understood where just about every single character was coming from.

With the second book, which is a prequel, The Surrogates: Flesh and Bone, Venditti and Weldele take us back in time to fully explore the precipitous events that led to the exciting and engrossing original graphic novel.

Detective Harvey Greer isn't a detective yet, only a beat cop with aspirations of one day becoming a detective. His first real shot at becoming one appears in the form of a murder committed on a flesh and bone person by one or more surrogates. Unlike the original book, this one isn't as much a mystery as an examination of the events talked about in the original: why cops are all issued their own surrogates, why Greer's wife is hopelessly addicted to life through surrogacy, why the Prophet has become so influential in decry surrogates, etc.

We learn who the killer(s) is right off the bat--a teenage boy with no regard for the homeless man he beat to death while "joyriding" his wealthy dad's surrogate. And while the kid's white and his victim is black, race doesn't really play a role in the story as much as the classism shown among the haves and the have-nots.

It's not a bad story, really. Kind of a "Law & Order" version of a sci-fi thriller. The only thing is that it doesn't really feel like it adds anything new; it simply contextualizes what was already established in the first graphic novel. It's a fine bit of flashbackery for those that want to see what happened with the early character development, but there's not a whole lot beyond that. In fact, it kind of felt like this book should have been published first. Although there is one key scene at the very end of the book that would act as a spoiler to the original novel if Flesh and Bone was read first.

It's okay, but if there is a third Surrogates graphic novel out there, I hope it does something to carry the narrative forward instead of basking in what's already been done.

June 23, 2010

Wish List Wednesday #52: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Wish List Wednesday is a weekly meme I started back in July '09, in which I put the spotlight on a book that is on my wish list--whether new release, blast from the past, or hidden gem.

You know, it's weird. When I was a little kid I thought Ray Bradbury was lame. That immature opinion formed from watching weekend reruns of "Ray Bradbury Presents." I think it was the intro to the show that turned me off, with Bradbury writing den and all its knick-knacks out for display. I found it hokey and substandard. I was also the same kind of idiot kid who watched "Transformers" and "He-Man" whenever those shows aired. Talk about hokey and substandard.

I turned around and took a liking to Bradbury in my college years though, around the same time I got into "The Twilight Zone" and "The Outer Limits". Then I started reading Bradbury's stories. But I've never read a novel length work by the man. And if I'm going to start, I think it ought to be with Something Wicked This Way Comes.

In a small town somewhere in America, a couple of boys are entranced by a strange traveling carnival run by a man named Mr. Dark.

I don't know about you, but those tales of children encountering the sinister side of the world have always intrigued me. How about you? This sound like the kind of story you'd read? Have you read it already? What did you think of it?

June 22, 2010

Getting Graphic: Jonah Hex: Face Full of Violence by Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti

Title: Jonah Hex: Face Full of Violence
Authors: Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Illustrators: Luke Ross and Tony Dezuniga
Published: DC Comics (2006)
ISBN: 1-4012-1095-3
ISBN 13: 978-1-1-4012-1095-3

I was excited about the prospect of a Jonah Hex movie when I heard it was finally being made last year. Then I read Megan Fox had been signed to the cast. My expectations diminished. And judging by the reception the movie got at the box office, it appears unfortunately my instincts were right.

But, hey, there are still the comic books, right?

I put a search on through my library--my only source for graphic novels around these parts--for a Jonah Hex title and saw this one. Glad I did too, because the collection of stand-alone tales within its pages were a nice treat. The nameless gunslinger motif is taken to a very grizzly place as Jonah Hex is shown as a remorseless bounty hunter with a notoriety that instills fear and anger among the folks he meets. There was nothing in the way of the supernatural though, and I could have sworn that Hex's origins and motivations dealt with a supernatural element. A misconception on my part, I guess.

Much of the artwork feels akin to the time its presenting, as if many of the panels are painted portraits of a violent period of the wild west. There are, however, a couple of stories that show a much rougher style that carries a darker mood than the--shall I say--cleaner art of the other stories. Tony Dezuniga and Luke Ross did a heckuba job, there.

Revenge is one of the two more popular themes through each of the stories in this book's pages--death being the other. Where "The Dog Fighters" shows Hex's task of rescuing a boy from his captors, there's no promise of a storybook happy ending. Fans of "Gunsmoke" and John Wayne movies may be taken aback at the harshness of not just the villains, but Hex and his methods. Then are stories that actually carry a certain amount of charm like "Chako Must Die." Humor exists in this book, but it may be of a more cynical variety.

Getting back to the film adaptation, I'm not sure whose call it was to cast Josh Brolin as the title character, but there are a couple of key scenes in this book that show a remarkable visage of Brolin as Hex. Granted, there are other stories in the book that give Hex a Jack Pallance and Clint Eastwood appearance.

If I have a negative thing to say about this book, it's only that there is very little by way of exploration into the history of Jonah Hex. Maybe all of that was established in the first volume of graphic novels, as this book is the first of the second volume to my understanding. He's a great character to read about, but I would've like to learn more about him beyond the fists-and-fury portrayal given here.

I'll be keeping an eye out for more of the Jonah Hex novels down the line, and I'll keep my fingers crossed for the movie when it comes out on DVD. Maybe a director's cut will give me something to root for.

June 21, 2010

Killer Kitsch: Horror Decor

Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? Well, you've only got about six months left before it's Christmas Day--and about three weeks before stores start promoting their Christmas sales. Yeah, at this point they're hyping Christmas shopping before Halloween. That's where we are nowadays.

In case you haven't, and you're looking for a one-stop shop for all sorts of gruesome gifts, I stumbled across a website that might fit the bill: Horror Decor.

I can't remember now where I spied the link for it--might have been Bloody-Disgusting.com--but the first thing I found when I visited the online store's site was a pillow with a bloody ax printed on it. Gah. At that's one of the tamer little pieces of kitsch they've got for sale.

I saw a pillow shaped like Jason Vorhees's hockey mask, though not explicitly labeled as such for copyright reasons, I'm sure. There were blood-spattered lampshades, blood-spattered petri dish Christmas ornaments--yes, you read that right--and even a blood-spattered buzzsaw clock. I guess you could safely guess that at least half their merchandise is blood-spattered.

Anyway, it was an interesting site to browse through, so if you're looking for something special for that sicko in your life, check out Horror Decor.

My favorite item up for sale? Hmmm, the eyeball candle was eye-catching. Ooh, yuck, that pun was uncalled for.

Horror Decor - Make Evey Day A Living Nightmare!

June 18, 2010

Rabid Rewind: Daybreakers

Title: Daybreakers
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Isabel Lucas, Willem Dafoe, and Sam Neill
Directors/Writers: The Spieberg Brothers
Released: Lionsgate (2010)
Genre: Horror

More often than not, when Ethan Hawke stars in a film, I enjoy both the film and his performance. Yet, for some reason I find he has the air of a smarmy prick. Maybe that's just part of the characters he's played over the years. I will say, however, that by the time this movie ended, I quite liked his character--and by proxy, him as well.

In the year 2019, humanity is nearly a decade into its existence after much of it is turned into vampires. It's a bit vague as to how it happened--something like a virus caused the initial outbreak--but the end result in a world much like our own, but with vampires running the show and humans are basically hunted down like wild game and farmed for their blood. Now we know how the KFC chickens feel.

Humans are a finite resource, and you might say the world has long passed "peak blood" as only 5% of the human population remains, and synthetic blood substitutes aren't exactly panning out yet. That's where Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) comes in. He's one of the scientists researching a possible blood substitute, and since being turned into a vampire all those years ago, he's been having a bit of a hard go of assimilating into the vampire lifestyle. He has an aversion to drinking human blood, but they've discovered through grizzly observation that blood deprivation is, shall way say, less than pleasant for their species.

Enter Elvis (Willem Dafoe), a strange human who claims he used to be a vampire but was miraculously cured. Aided by a ragtag crew of humans on the run, Elvis enlists Edward to help replicate the circumstances that led to his being cured of vampirism, and hopefully cure the rest of the planet as well before all vampires degrade into a ravenous mutated horde.

As a vampire film, this movie really tries to set itself apart--at least in terms of subject matter. The gothic and graceful vampire is a veneer really, as they behave just like they did when they were human, or rather mimic their former lives while consumed by the constant craving for blood. The scenes involving the little coffee/blood shop down the street from Edward's laboratory worked quite well in making that connection between man's past and the vampire's present.

As far as the casting is concerned, it's just about pitch perfect, though it really feels at times that the main players are there to revamp old roles they've been known for. Ethan Hawke has that twitchy brooding thing that he worked so well in films like Gattica and Training Day, while Sam Neill is his same immortally creepy self as the CEO of the labs and lead villain--think a vampire version of his role in Event Horizon. And Willem Dafoe ... Well, it's Willem Dafoe. Isabel Lucas is the unfamiliar face among the cast as the human Ethan Hawke meets through an abrupt, and albeit artificial, happenstance that leads him on his way to searching for a cure. She does a good job with the role she's given, but most of the time it feels like she's there simply to act as a go-between for Ethan Hawke's character between his ordeals as a vampire and longing to regain his humanity.

There's an interesting subplot involving Sam Neill's character and an estranged daughter who has rejected him in the wake of his turning into a vampire--a turn which cured him of cancer, but ultimately turned him into a monster in his daughter's eyes. It's a flagrant bit of pathos, but without all that emoting and melancholy sprinkled throughout the story, the movie would regrettably fall apart and wind up as just another ruthless vampire B-movie.

The ending, while intense, left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. I think that's because it, like District 9, abandoned the more cerebral elements of the story in favor of becoming a kind of run-and-gun climax. All things considered though, Daybreakers is a refreshing and welcome addition to vampire lore. I just hope they don't sully it by coming out with a sequel at some point, because this movie stands on its own and needs no follow-up.

Rabid Rewind: Children of Men

Title: Children of Men
Starring: Clive Owen, Michael Caine, Julianne Moore, Charlie Hunnam, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Directed by: Alfonso Cuaron
Written by: Alfonso Cuaron, Timoth J. Sexton, David Arata, and Mark Fergus; adapted from the n
ovel by P.D. James
Released: Universal Pictures (2006)

This was one of my favorite films from 2006, if not my very favorite from that year. It sprang up out of nowhere for me. I don't recall it making a big splash in theaters, though critics praised it plenty. I rented it on a lark when it came out on DVD and ended up being wowed. Now, a few years after seeing it I've had a chance to see it again and I enjoyed it as much or more.

The near future, 2027 to be exact, is pretty bleak. After some kind of event in 2009 has rendered humanity incapable of reproducing, most of the world has collapsed into anarchy and utter ruin ... except for Britain. Being an island unto itself has its advantages, I guess, as the country seals off its borders and hunkers down for the long haul into oblivion.

So, eighteen years later we are introduced to this world through the eyes of a British citizen named Theo (Clive Owen). He's a drunk and all-round malcontent, making ends meet in the city and escaping to the countryside on occasion to get wasted with his retired hippy scientist chum (played by Michael Caine). One day he's abducted and confronted by his ex-lover, Julian (Julianne Moore), who is part of a reported terrorist organization. She bribes him into getting transportation papers for a refugee, but the best he can manage is papers that require her to be escorted by him.

Things go swimmingly until all hell breaks loose. People get killed, allegiances turn, and Theo winds up wanted by just about everyone around him. Oh yeah, and the refugee is a young woman--young pregnant woman. And the fear is that if the government discovers she's pregnant, that a refugee and not a citizen is the one carrying around the first baby to be born in nearly two decades, they're going to be gunning for her one way or the other.

The movie is just riveting. The world is fleshed out in a way that you feel like your knee-deep in it, which is due in no small part to the fantastic camera work. If it's not the long, uncut action scenes as the camera follows along the characters as if in on the scene, it's the quiet moments when certain scenes are captured at their core elements--like one scene where Theo just collapses in on himself after a grueling chase.

I think what makes the movie so resonant is how the unconscionable behavior of some characters and sections of the society at large isn't quite as far-fetched as you might initially think. With the entire so-called civilized world shrunk in on itself within the confines of England, the microcosm of humanity shines white hot. And the unremitting fear and intolerance by Brits towards the "fugees" is emblematic of much more than immigration, especially as some of the scenes play out.

You might get away with calling it a smart action movie, but I would steer away from such a classification because it kind of cheapens the film. Clive Owen isn't playing some hero out to save the fair maiden in distress. Theo is nothing more than a confused, frightened man who when confronted with an extraordinary dilemma tries to do keep himself from falling back on old habits and do what's needed of him. If you haven't seen the film, you're in for a treat, though I wouldn't call it the "feel good film of the season."

June 17, 2010

On My Radar: Stephen Zimmer's "Rising Dawn" Saga

Man, oh man. I meant to blog about this a month ago. Better late than never, I suppose.

Last year, I had the opportunity to read and review Stephen Zimmer's debut novel, The Exodus Gate, which was the first in a series of books called the Rising Dawn Saga by Seventh Star Press. You can find my review of that book here.

The sequel to Exodus Gate is out this year, titled, The Storm Guardians. It's a pretty wild blend of sci-fi, horror, and fantasy, and seems to be right up the alley for anyone who digs these sweeping epic series.

Here's the press release, provided by Stephen:

Stephen Zimmer’s The Storm Guardians, Book Two of the Rising Dawn Saga, Set For Launch at Hypericon

Seventh Star Press will be launching Stephen Zimmer’s second Rising Dawn Saga novel, The Storm Guardians, at the Hypericon science fiction and fantasy convention in Nashville, TN, taking place from June 4-6, 2010.

Book two in the epic urban fantasy series, the release reflects the commitment of Seventh Star Press to have a new title out each year in the Rising Dawn Saga. The Storm Guardians follows the events and characters introduced in The Exodus Gate, and is an installment full of action and
intrigue set in a parallel world very similar to Earth.

With a multi-threaded style that focuses on a diverse range of characters, the novel appeals to readers of epic and urban fantasy alike. The danger rises and the stakes grow throughout all of the story threads in The Storm Guardians: A massive battle looms in the spirit realms, as the Fallen Avatar Beleth's legions pour into the Middle Lands. Babylon Technologies prepares to unveil its greatest invention, a technology that will impact every living being on the face of the world. The shape-shifting An-Ki find themselves in grave peril, as the Night Hunt resumes once again. A small group of high school students make an incredible discovery, even as tensions swirl in a small town over a law enforcement deadlock that causes a sheriff to question his own part in the course of events. The Convergence continues its steadfast march towards a global legal and
economic order, using all means at its disposal. The question is: Who will be the guardians against the storm?

The Rising Dawn Saga is just one of two active fantasy series by Stephen Zimmer, whose epic medieval Fires in Eden series was set in motion with the release of Crown of Vengeance, in November of 2009. The second book in the Fires in Eden series is slated for winter of 2010.

Amanda DeBord, chief editor at Seventh Star Press, and who was the editor for Zimmer’s The Exodus Gate and Crown of Vengeance novels, said about the new book, “I'm so excited for the release of The Storm Guardians, and happy to be one of the first to tell readers that they're going to love the developments in this second installment of Zimmer's Rising Dawn Saga.
Fans of The Exodus Gate will be happy to see the return of familiar faces, and some real heroes arising from the action. However, Stephen has taken care to ensure that new readers to the series will be able to jump right in to the story.”

The Storm Guardians also continues the artistic collaboration between fantasy artist Matthew Perry and Stephen Zimmer, featuring no less than thirteen brand new, full page illustrations, as well as the cover art. Along with The Exodus Gate and Crown of Vengeance, Matthew has now done more than 40 full page illustrations and three covers in his association with Stephen’s literary works. “Stephen's narratives cover the gamut of deep introspectiveness to epic, world-changing events. To have that range, and to be to able to go in and out of those possibilities, makes it an adventure for me to see what emerges from the empty canvas,” said Matthew.

One of the most active fantasy authors in productivity and appearances, Stephen will be visiting numerous conventions and bookstores throughout 2010 in support of The Storm Guardians and his other literary works and film projects.

The Hypericon visit from June 4-6th in Nashville kicks off the support of The Storm Guardians, along with a June 7th appearance at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Memphis, TN. “I am really honored to be launching the new book at Hypericon, which has always been a wonderful event, with many special friends, readers, and amazing guests, like this year’s guest of honor, a living literary legend, Ramsey Campbell. I’m very thankful to Fred Grimm for this opportunity. I can’t wait to find out what readers think of The Storm Guardians, as I believe it shows how I build upon my foundations in a series. Expect loads of action, and many surprises!”
Stephen said.

A special collector’s edition hardcover, limited to 75 copies, is now being offered with a full package of collectibles, with trade paperback, hardcover, Kindle, and eBook editions to follow.

Updates and additional information can be obtained at the official site for Seventh Star Press, at www.seventhstarpress.com , or at the author's site at www.stephenzimmer.com

Hypericon’s official website can be found at: www.hypericononline.com

Contact: C.C. James
Public Relations, Seventh Star Press
Seventh Star Press Mailing Address:
3801 Dylan Place Suite 116, #7
Lexington, Ky. 40514-1062

Seventh Star Press is a small press publisher of speculative fiction
located in Lexington Kentucky.
Here's a sample of the artwork that you'll find within the book's pages. Illustrations by Matthew Perry.

Celestial Woman

Getting Graphic: "The Sandman Vol. 2: The Doll's House" by Neil Gaiman

Title: The Sandman Vol. 2: The Doll's House
Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrators: Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli, Steve Parkhouse
Published: DC Vertigo (1995); originally compiled in 1990
ISBN 0-930289-59-5
Call him the Sandman, or Morpheus, or Dream, or whatever tickles your fancy, but Neil Gaiman's Dream Lord character is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters in comics. And I still have something like eight volumes left to read.

Following up on the events of the first volume, in which Morpheus was imprisoned and the Dreaming World left unchecked until he eventually escaped and reclaimed his property, The Doll's House has him cleaning up some of the mess left behind in his absence. Most notably, some demons/entities have gone AWOL and are hiding in the real world, plus a human girl has come to his attention when he discovered that she is actually a vortex that threatens to dismantle the entire world of dreams.

The eight chapters of this graphic novel seem even more disparate on the surface than those of the first volume, but each one offers its own contribution to the overarching story--vicariously so for one chapter in particular (Part Four, "Men of Good Fortune"). Where Gaiman introduces us to Dream's sibling, Death, in the first volume, the second volume gives us an early glimpse of two other siblings who may have played a role in his imprisonment all those years ago: Desire and Despair.

But the story doesn't focus solely on the Sandman and his tasks of maintaining and defending the Dreaming, as readers get to know the young woman who is linked to his past and his future, Rose Walker. A bit of an inspiration for that Kristen Stewart style of brooding teen, Rose proves to be a bit more complex than that--and far more likable. After meeting her estranged grandmother in England, she's approached by the Fates and given a glimpse into the whereabouts of her little brother. In her travels to find and reunite with him that she meets an eclectic group of roommates in an old house--one that looks strikingly like her grandmother's doll house--and also an unfortunate run-in with one or more of the entities that escapes the Dreaming.

The artwork was splendid again, and seemed to have a more cohesive feel throughout the book, whereas the first volume seemed to show a wide array of art styles. Each setting and time-frame is given its own special touches though, so nothing feels exactly the same on each page, which makes for a nice balance.

Where the balance seemed to be lost for me was the meandering focus from one chapter to the next. While it was enjoyable in its own right, there were moments where the story went in one direction while I wished it to stay on its previous trajectory. Those diverging scenes were like time capsules that exploded onto the page with more jarring effect than the most imposing flashback scene from "Lost." The book was good overall, but didn't hit the same high note that the first volume attained, which may be nothing more than that old sophomore jinx that is notorious in storytelling.

Whatever the case, the book didn't thrill me, but it certainly kept me engaged and looking forward to reading the third volume in The Sandman series. And if Neil Gaiman's imagination in these books keeps delivering such entertaining and suspenseful stuff like the "cereal" killers convention, I'll be a happy camper.


June 16, 2010

Wish List Wednesday #51: Boneshaker

This might be one of those times when a title and a cover do more to entice me than anything else about the book. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest has a title that comes off as alluring and succinct, but is that all the book has going for it?

If the synopsis is accurate then the story behind that gorgeous cover should prove an entertaining read. I'm still warming up to the whole steampunk fad--and it'll likely be passé like zombie novels by the time I'm fully engrossed--but I do enjoy a good adventure tale that takes creative license with history and reality (i.e., The Golden Compass).

The American Civil War is gearing up and so is the Klondike gold rush, which prompts an inventor to create an amazing new mine drilling technology called the Boneshaker. But it winds up inadvertently unleashing a zombie apocalypse of sorts--zombies again!--on Seattle. Flash forward to when the teenage son of the Boneshaker's deceased inventor seeks to right his father's wrong and infiltrate a walled-off Seattle.

I guess there are a couple of short stories set in this universe as well, through Subterranean Press, which will have to suffice until I read the novel. Have you read this one yet? What did you think of it?

June 15, 2010

Writing Like Crazy: A Reprieve from Rejections

After more than six months of accumulating rejections, I finally received an acceptance. I'm not sure where the average for people rests with the time between each short story acceptance, but 2010 was feeling pretty bleak for me.

Them's the ropes, though. You pile up the rejections unabated until you get those elusive check marks in the win column. It's been almost a year since I made my very first sale, with Northern Fright Publishing's Shadows of the Emerald City anthology, so it feels good to have what feels like a little forward momentum--I take it when it comes.

I'm sending off my signed contract today to Blood Bound Books and hopefully they'll have a full table of contents posted for the anthology, Seasons in the Abyss, down the line. The concept of an anthology using the four seasons as themes was an intriguing one I could not resist writing for. And re-reading my story, I am still quite fond of it. I'm glad they liked it too.

I think the anthology is to be released in the fall, which means I could see two of my stories published in the fall, as the Dead Bells anthology (edited by Jodi Lee) is supposed to be published around that time.

Now, I wonder if I can get another acceptance--or dare I dream for more than one--before the last day of summer. Fingers crossed.

Rabid Reads: "Troll's Eye View" by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling (editors)

Title: Troll's Eye View (A Book of Villainous Tales)
Editors: Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Published: Penguin Group (2009)
Pages: 200
Genre: Fantasy; Children's Literature
ISBN 978-0-670-06141-9

As a kid, I was raised in part by Walt Disney. More specifically, I refer to the Walt Disney films I watched with rapt amazement. The classic tales of Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and Pinocchio were so well orchestrated with fluid animation and colorful palettes, I suspect it was hard for any kid who watched them not to become hypnotized by Disney's vision of children's tales. But so many of those stories were homogenized and watered down compared to the more potent source material.

So to see editors, Ellen Datlow and Terrie Windling, offer up an anthology of short stories and poems that hold humor and horror in the same vein as those centuries old fairy tales and fables, it's a true sight to behold.

The fifteen contributing authors, including Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix, and Kelly Link, each provide their own new touch on old tales. The focus of this anthology being on the more villainous elements of those stories, even delving into the minds of some of the iconic characters as they work against the protagonists of the original stories.

The first story by Delia Sherman called "The Wizard's Apprentice" sets an interesting tone for the book, by tapping into an old Russian fairy tale about an evil wizard. The story not only offers something new from a potentially obscure tale to western audiences, and turns it into a more complex story concerning the nature of good and evil, as the wizard may not be the most evil character in the tale.

The following stories relate to more familiar territory--at least for me--with stories involving or alluding to Puss in Boots, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, and a particularly dark tale involving Cinderella by Kelly Link at the very end of the book.

If you think this book might not be suitable for your kid, relax. They can handle it. The stories shine a light on those famous villains, but they also do it without malice and offer very humanizing elements to the fables. I think both kids and parents will enjoy seeing the world from the antagonist's point of view for a change.

Personally, I liked it, but strictly from an inner child perspective. And you will really need to be a kid at heart to sit down and be entertained by these stories. Otherwise, your curmudgeonly mind will have a hard time appreciating the value of this anthology.

You can find other reviews of this book at: Charlotte's Library; The Alcove