Monday, December 8, 2008

Basketball God

I love playing and watching basketball, and I also love reading about players and coaches as well. I have just finished Robert Cherry's Wilt. Larger Than Life and I must say it was a great read.
It is always hard to say who the greatest basketballer was, or is, different eras played in different ways, and it is more than just comparing statistics and championships. But some players are always going to stand out, Jerry West, Michael Jordan, Elgin Baylor, Bill Russell, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Oscar Robinson and the list goes on. One name who would be near the top of most lists is Wilt Chamberlain.

Cherry's book does a great job of exploring this complex individual, while also highlighting the amazing things he could do on a basketball court. Some of the records he holds will never be broken, and it is rare to find someone of his height 7'1" who was so athletic.

Some of his stats:

Career average of 30.1 points per game (equal first)

Career average of 22.9 rebounds per game (first)

Career average of 45.8 minutes per game (first)

Only player to score 100 points in a game

Only player to grab 55 rebounds in a game

Only centre to lead the league in assists

4 time league MVP

Won Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same year ('59-'60)
A book for all fans of the game.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A bit of history

If you're a fan of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe novels then Mark Urban's Rifles is for you. Instead of being fiction, Urban follows the 95th through six years of war, and puts you in the shoes of these legendary fighters.
The book mainly focuses on the campaign in Spain, and finishes with the battle of Waterloo. Using the letters, diaries and other writings of the soldiers themselves, Urban does a good job of showing the reader what it would have been like to fight with these men. The book also shows just how hard life in the ranks was, were casual brutality and a lack of proper provisions was the least of your worries.
Well worth picking up if you are interested in the Napoleonic Wars or want to know more about the inspiration for Sharpe.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Right Man for the Job

Garth Ennis's run on The Punisher is a great read and adds an extra element to this often one-dimensional character. Instead of confining Frank Castle to the USA, and especially New York, Ennis has him in Russia, Afghanistan and other places, as Frank's war on crime comes to include international criminals.
Ennis has an eye for tough guy characters, and is suited to writing the story of this iconic character. Sure the violence is over the top, as Castle blasts his way through masses of bad guys, and how many times can he be wounded and get up and continue the fight. But the story flows, and adding the international angle with the expected amounts of politics, dirty deals and corrupt individuals helps to show Frank's moral core, and unwavering belief in what he is doing is right.

Look for the trade paperbacks as each one collects a storyline and break the run up into chapters.

Also Ennis's version of Fury is a lot of fun as he is in pure bad-ass mode.

Monday, November 17, 2008

For the love of books ...

Sometimes libraries surprise you with the books you can borrow from them. I put a hold on Twenty Years After by Dumas and waited for the only copy in our extended service to show up. And what a beauty it turned out to be.
The book was catalogued by the owning library in 1924 and is a beautiful leather bound edition which is slowly falling apart but still retains enough charm to make you want to just hold it. Yes the binding is going, and the pages starting to fall out, but this is a book built to last. I doubt many paperbacks will still be gracing our shelves in 80 years time.
Reading it is a pleasure as you turn the whisper thin pages, and peer at the small type.
I am enjoying reading this immensely and the age of the book is adding to the enjoyment as well.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More Fantasy

My recent spate of reading fantasy novels continues as I have just finished another great read in Adrian Tchaikovsky's Empire in Black and Gold. This novel, first in a trilogy, expertly sets out the intriguing world that these books are set in.
The Lowlands are home to many kinden, humans who share characteristics with different types of insects. There are beetle-kinden who are short and stout and are inventors, mantis-kinden who are excellent duellists and fighters, ant-kinden who are great soldiers due to there hive-mind, spider-kinden who are able to climb any surface and so on. And then we have the wasp-kinden who are the empire mentioned in the title. Their special ability is that they can create a 'sting' to attack their enemies as well as all wasp-kinden being warriors who use slaves to make their society function.

As the wasp empire begins to encroach on the Lowlands one beetle-kinden, Stenwold, has for years been warning about this coming threat but no one has paid him any mind. Therefore he must send off a small group of operatives to try and protect the world from the growing darkness.

This inventive premise is wonderfully used by Tchaikovsky to tell a great story that will leave you hanging out for the next book, Dragonfly Falling.

Monday, October 27, 2008

More great fantasy

Richard Morgan has branched out into fantasy with his latest novel The Steel Remains. Like all of Morgan's books his characters live in a dangerous world and they respond to this danger with violence. The characters in The Steel Remains are no different.
Morgan has always been a great writer though and his characters are always intriguing. Maybe not the sort of people you would want as your friends but they certainly are good art what they do. The world Morgan describes is very visceral with sex, violence and death ever present. And in something of a change it is only 340 pages long which is good in this world were editors seem to think that fantasy novels need to be six hundred pages long.

I recommend that people give this book a go, especially fantasy fans. I feel I must quickly warn people that the book does contain lots of violence and swearing, as well as graphic gay sex. But don't let that put you off it really is a great read.

Patrick Rothfuss

If you are a fan of fantasy literature than you should be reading Patrick Rothfuss, if you haven't already. His novel The Name of the Wind is a knock-out read that will keep you interested until the last page, and then you will be eagerly awaiting the next book in the trilogy.
The book is about Kvothe a hero in his thirties who has left the limelight and now runs a bar in a small town under an assumed name. When a story-teller passes through town and recognises Kvothe he convinces him to tell his story.

We are then treated to various flash backs as Kvothe begins to tell of the events that led him to the bar he is now running. As the book goes on we begin to see that Kvothe is carrying some mental scars from his experiences.

This is a great novel, and the author's light touch makes it a joy to read. Look out for the next book in the trilogy called The Wise Man's Fear due for release next year.

I'll finish by letting our main character introduce himself.

"I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

My name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A fun read

The Warhammer world is a grim place, but also a fun place to visit. William King's series of books about two characters who inhabit this world are proof of that. His Slayer series deals with the adventures of Gotrek and Felix who battle the forces of evil at every turn.
Gotrek is a Trollslayer, a dwarf who has so shamed himself that he has shaved his head into a Mohawk and is seeking death in battle to redeem himself in the eyes of his fellow dwarves. This means you will find him wherever the fighting is thickest. Felix is the son of a rich merchant who is trying to escape his family and drunkenly promises to write an epic based on Gotrek's deeds. Therefore he is forced to follow Gotrek from battle to battle and the pair develop a bond as they quash various evil plots around the Warhammer world.

The series starts with Trollslayer and builds from there, like I said before a fun read.

Hollywood is a strange place

David Hughes has written a great little book called The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made. The book takes us on a tour of the development hell that can surround a project in Tinseltown, and the obscene amounts of money that can be wasted on a project that doesn't get made.
Imagine if you will for a moment these following films that never saw the light of day.

Stanley Kubrick's Childhood's End

Philip Kaufman's Star Trek: Planet of the Titans

Kevin Smith's Six Million Dollar Man

Tim Burton's Superman Lives

James Cameron's Spider-Man

Terry Gilliam's Watchmen

Ridley Scott's I Am Legend

I would pay money to see any of them. But this book details why I can't see them, as well as looking at the troubled creation of some films that did get made like Dune and Alien3.

Avoid like the plague


The following book is guaranteed to make you throw it away in disgust as another fantasy cliche jumps from the page and slowly bludgeons you into insensibility. The Wanderer's Tale by David Bilsborough is a load of old tripe. Badly plotted, overly long and without an original sentence to redeem it Bilsborough was better of taking up another profession if he thinks he has what it takes to be a writer.

It is hard to like this book, especially a fan like myself who knows how great good fantasy can be. Take for example Bilborough's inability to create a name that isn't ridiculous or laugh out loud funny or unpronounceable. Here are a few to get you started, Methuselech Xiluafloese, Odf Uglekort, a vilian called Drauglir (I assume Bram Stoker is spinning like a top), the Ogghain-Yddiaw and when your heroes are called Gapp and Bolldhe it's hard to keep a straight face.

Bilsborough should be forced to repeat his characters names out loud as punishment for inflicting them on us.

There is a sequel but why anyone would bother after being subjected to this steaming pile is any one's guess.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Angel and Louis

The Reapers by John Connolly is an enjoyable read and continues my admiration for the way this man writes, and the stories he tells. This book focuses on Angel and Louis, specifically Louis, and the world they inhabit. When you're a consummate, suave killer like Louis you are bound to lead a special lifestyle, especially when your partner is a man of very specific talents like Angel.
Connolly is a great atmospheric writer, and his novels are told in a particular style almost mystical noir, and The Reapers is no different. The Reapers of the title are the nickname for the worlds greatest killers, of which Louis is one, and we discover how Louis became what he is, and why someone wants him dead.

I can't say enough that more people should be reading Connolly's novels, especially if they enjoy their thrillers to have a little twist into the mythical in them. I should also state now that I think Angel and Louis are one of the best couples in fiction, definitely the deadliest.

What a read

Anyone looking for an intelligent fantasy novel, that is a great read can do no wrong if they pick up Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself. First in a trilogy The Blade Itself kicks of the story by introducing us to the main characters and setting up the world that the books will take place in.
We meet Logan Ninefingers (or the Bloody Nine as he is sometimes called), a great barbarian warrior from the north who is running away from his homelands. We have the selfish army officer Jezal dan Luthor who is trying to make it as a duellist by doing as little as possible, and finally Inquisitor Glokta, a torturer who is hideously deformed after being tortured himself, who is investigating a large conspiracy that seems to go deep into the government. The stories of these three characters become intertwined as events unfold, and the reader discovers that there is a lot going on in this world.

Abercrombie juggles these various plot lines with skill and builds up a detailed picture of the wider world. With well written dialogue, and heroes who aren't afraid to do questionable things The Blade Itself will make you want to finish the trilogy just to find out what happens to these great characters.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Orcs is 'ere

I have always had a thing for orcs. When I played Warhammer the first army I collected was an Orc and Gobbo one, and since then I have sympathised with the greenskins. Therefore I approached this book with feelings of glee and Orcs by Stan Nicholls did not let me down. As you can probably imagine from the title the main characters of these books are orcs.
Nicholls takes us into the world of the Wolverines an orc warband lead by Stryke as they try and survive the various factions out to destroy them. Orcs is a great fast paced read, that flies along from battle to battle as we all know orcs love a good fight. It's nice to see humans as the invader and destroyer for a change as the orcs try to stop them eating the magic of the elder races.

The books in this omnibus collection reminded my of Glen Cook's Black Company series with its focus on the foot soldiers rather than the generals. Nicholls also does a great job of fleshing out his characters and giving them motivations and feelings. And like Cook, Nicholls characters have very distinctive voices.

Overall Orcs is a great read and something that any fantasy fan should pick up.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I heard it on the grapevine ...

While reading Feminist SF - the blog! I saw a feature they had on there top ten obscure science fiction novels. Some of them caught my eye so I decided to read some and see what I thought.
The first one was Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner. I do not know this book or author so I sat down not quite sure what to expect. The cover quotation by George R R Martin filled me with hope, so I began to read.

Having now finished it I can't describe how much I enjoyed reading this novel. I loved the setting, and I loved the characters. The plot was interesting and Kushner's prose kept me coming back for more.

In the suburb of Riverside Richard St Vier is something of a rock star, a highly sought after duellist who fights for which ever rich patron pays him, while his partner Alec helps him negotiate the politics of the city, and is drawn to the violence in Richard.

A wonderful novel, Kushner describes a vibrant city and Riverside comes to life through its inhabitants. Well worth reading if you can find a copy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Sean Williams and Shane Dix's Evergence series is well worth reading. Set in a far future it is full of action and intrigue, space opera with ideas. Williams and Dix aren't afraid of mixing interesting concepts with their action scenes, and the series never becomes a race from one fire-fight to the next. They will continually throw something thought provoking or interesting in your way.
The main characters we meet are Morgan, Cane and The Box. Morgan is a intelligence officer on a special and secret mission that involves various powers in the universe. In her care is The Box, a portable A. I. who is being hunted, and who seems to have an important roll in the future of humanity. Finally Cane is a mystery man found floating in space, who has no memory of his past but has skills and abilities beyond normal.

The three books in the series are a great read, and would be enjoyed by any fans of science fiction.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Monarchies of God

I picked up Hawkood's Voyage by Paul Kearney on a whim and I must say I wish I had more whims like this. I didn't know what to expect from this novel and thought that the blurb had sounded interesting with the usual things, war, political intrigue and adventuring to be had.
Well, once I started I found it difficult to stop. Kearney's style would be familiar to fans of David Gemmell but there is still enough to make his writing unique to him. Like Gemmell, Kearney's characters are living and breathing in the world he has created for them. Also like Gemmell there is a gritty feel to the world Kearney describes. Decisions have consequences, and they aren't always pleasant. Also fights are presented in a real style, where people can be seriously injured or killed, rather than feeling that the main characters will escape without a scratch.

Enough about that though, lets have a look at the story itself. Kearney's world is one beset by enemies within, and without. From the east the Marduks (think Saracens) are slowly invading the Western Kingdoms (think Christian Europe), while the Inceptine's (think Inquisition) are rooting out heretics within the Kingdoms. Into this mess one King decides to support a voyage to cross the Great Western Ocean and see what is on the other side.

Kearney drops you into the middle of the action, and it doesn't let up, whether it's political scheming or adventuring. There is so much to like about this book, and I hope the rest of the series (called The Monarchies of God) manages to continue in the same vein. I'm looking forward to finishing it, and then reading more by Kearney.

Monday, September 1, 2008


Jennifer Fallon's fantasy series called The Tide Lords has just come to my attention. I have enjoyed immensely reading this series, and hope that Fallon continues to write in this world.
In this series the world of humans is served by the Crasii, animal slaves that walk and talk like humans. The world was run by the Tide Lords who are immortal but disappeared from human affairs. The Tide (forces of magic) is coming in though and the Tide Lords are beginning to appear, and they want to return to the way things were before which is spooking the humans. And then there is the Immortal Prince who just wants to die.

The series is full of political machinations, action and good dialogue, and is well worth getting in to especially those who like a little political intrigue with their fantasy fiction.

Cortes the Killer

The Conquest of Mexico by Hugh Thomas is a doorstop of a book. But don't be put of by this, as he is a great writer who will make the pages fly by.
This particular book deals with the history of the Aztecs, and the coming of the Spanish and what happened after they landed. It is packed with detail, and shows the amount of research that Thomas undertook to write it.

The history of Mexico that this book covers is full of evocative names like Montezuma, Cortes, and El Dorado. This is a book full of sweeping history, told in a readable style.

Faceless drones.

Douglas Copeland's JPod is set in a world of moral greys. Our main character is one of six game programmers (the JPod of the title), who work for a large game design company. Like other books by Copeland he writes about large faceless corporations and their effect on the individuals who work for them.
Copeland likes to poke fun at modern society, and he continues this trend in JPod. Gamers and people who work in computer software will get many of the jokes he throws around. While these jokes are never laugh-out-loud funny they do hit their mark, and the book does have its moments.

Reader's could be confronted by Copeland's use of pages of binary, and pages without punctuation but if they stick with it they will be rewarded.

Friday, August 29, 2008

This is a stickup

Duane Swierczynski's book The Wheelman is a tightly plotted wild ride through Philadelphia. We meet our main character Lennon, a mute Irish getaway driver, in the middle of a bank heist. As the robbers escape and begin to think about the future things go pear-shaped.
The story starts of at full speed and doesn't let down for an instance. Along the way we meet the Russian Mob, the Mafia, crooked cops, and discover that there is no honour amongst thieves as everyone seems to be double-crossing everyone else. The novel races towards a suprising climax that will leave you gasping for breath.

This is a short and extremely easy to read novel, and moves with such pace and verve that it is very hard to put down.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bo and Luke

In a wonderful trip down memory lane I watched some episodes of the original Dukes of Hazard TV show. I remember coming home from school and watching this show nearly every day. And I was surprised at how well it held up watching it now. Also the voice over by Waylon Jennings has the right amount of humour to carry it of.

I though it may have aged, and the fashions have, but two boys riding around in a fast car still works. Forget the lame ass movie, the TV version is the only true version worth watching.

Yes, like most boys I had a crush on Daisy Duke, and I wanted my very own General Lee 1969 Dodge Charger. That was one fine looking car!

If I can get my hands on other DVDs I'll enjoy watching more of the Dukes of Hazard.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Future crime

Stone by Adam Roberts deals with a criminal in a future utopia.
When we first meet our protagonist being held in a prison in the centre of a star, and has just been sentenced to execution by having the nano machines in our protagonist's blood removed. (The nano machines keep citizens from harm and allow them to lead very long lives.) Before long the main character, Ae, is contacted by a mysterious stranger who promises to break Ae free in return for doing a small favour. The favour is that Ae must wipe out the population of a planet without harming the planet itself.
This short book (under 300 pages) is a very good and interesting read. Roberts is an author who likes using Science Fiction to explore ideas and this book is no different. The fact that it is short means it flies along without much padding and this helps the story to move along.
Well worth reading.

Book of the Year

I know it's early to declare my book of the year, but after reading Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon I know nothing else is going to live up to it.
This is Chabon's first book of essays, and what a marvelous collection it is. Chabon has an amazing mind, and the eclectic nature of his interests comes through in the wide ranging essays. From comic books to Arthur Conan Doyle, by way of Phillip Pullman and genre fiction, Chabon has written about many things.

This is a great book to dip into, or like me read cover to cover in a couple of sittings, either way you will find yourself being awed by Chabon's easy writing style and his enthusiasm for whatever he happens to be writing about.

Grab a copy and enjoy.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mice with swords

Mouse Guard Fall 1152 is the first amazing tale in David Petersen's chronicles of the Mouse Guard.
The Mouse Guard protect the Mouse Territories by doing the things that need doing, patrolling the byways, escorting travellers, and general scouting. Until our heroes on the cover discover a plot to bring down the Guard.

Petersen is a good storyteller, sure some of his characters are cliched, you will not notice this too much as the amazing artwork sweeps you along and the tale hurries towards its ending.

Well worth reading, and keep an eye out for Mouse Guard Winter 1152.
The three mice on the cover from left to right are Lieam, Kenzie and Saxon. (They're sooo cute)

Undead Empire

Scott Westerfeld has written a great space opera called The Risen Empire. The Risen Empire is run by the Undead Emperor who has been in power for sixteen hundred years, and has the power to grant immortality on selected members of his court who join the elite class known as the Risen.
The Risen Empire is opposed by their eternal enemy the Rix who exist to turn planets into compound minds run by an AI.

The story starts with the Rix capturing the eternally youthful Child Empress and events unfold from there. This story is full of battles, political intrigue, thrills, spaceships and amazing technology. In other words all the ingredients that make up space opera of the Star Wars type.
A fun read you can enjoy without having to worry about any hard science.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

He's back

Sebastian Faulks does not spring to mind as the perfect author for a new James Bond novel but Devil May Care is a cracking read.

Faulks (writing as Ian Fleming) takes up the story of Bond in the sixties and this is a tired Bond. Time is catching up with him and he is starting to question his place in the scheme of things. But once the bad guys start to threaten Bond is more than up to the task of dealing with them. A plot involving heroin, the USSR, the Middle East and a treacherous doctor enables Bond to travel to various hot-spots and do what he does best.

If you like this sort of thing then you will enjoy this fun read.

A life in music

There are certain books that just grab you from the beginning, and then commence punching you in the gut. Last night I picked up Things the Grandchildren Should Know by Mark Oliver Everett and could not put it down until I had finished it. Everett, lead singer and musician in The Eels, has had a life touched with tragedy and sorrow, and yet throughout the book as Everett writes about his life there is a feeling that he has come to terms with what has happened and is moving on.
To say Everett's life has been touched with tragedy is an understatement. At 19 Everett discovered the body of his father who had died of a heart attack, 14 years later his sister committed suicide and finally his mother died from lung cancer a few years later. Then in 2001 his cousin was a flight attendant on the plane that flew into the Pentagon and was killed.

These events inform who Everett is, and this memoir is amazingly written with honesty, and an almost visible desire to be up front with his readers. Everett writes about his struggles to be recorded and the single minded drive that kept him trying, and not being afraid to do his own thing. The chapter where Everett talks about his mother dieing in his arms is simply moving and stops you in your tracks.

As the blurb states 'Inside the crazy, tragic and beautiful world of a man on a mission.' Highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Let the games begin

Yu-Gi-Oh! Duelist by Kazuki Takahashi has been taking up my reading time lately. Telling the story of Yugi who has solved the Millenium Puzzle and become Yu-Gi-Oh the King of Games.
The stories revolve around the Collectible Card Game (CCG) of the same name, which involves two duelists summoning monsters as they battle each other.

In this series of stories their is a big tournament that Yugi takes part in, and we follow him through various trials and tribulations as he fights many duels to try and win.

A basic understanding of CCGs can be an asset when reading these stories, but the story does explain the rules and tactics so newcomers can follow as well.

Probably not one for everyone but for those who enjoy CCGs it is a lot of fun.

Monday, July 28, 2008

By any other name ...

Iain M Banks writes great Science Fiction, but he also gives the space ships in his novels amazing names. I thought I would share some of these with you, all of the following are names of warships and one is the name of a pirate ship. See if you can guess which one it is.

  • Honest Mistake

  • Grey Area

  • Fate Amenable to Change

  • Ethics Gradient

  • Xenophobe

  • What Are The Civilian Applications?

  • The Very Little Gravitas Indeed

  • Clean Air Turbulence

  • Wisdom Like Silence

  • Anticipation of a New Lover's Arrival

  • Tactical Grace

  • Steely Glint

  • Serious Callers Only

Each name gives the ship a character all of its own. By the way, Clean Air Turbulence is the pirate ship.

What were they thinking?

Sturgeon's Law is a very handy reminder when thinking about genre fiction, and can be applied to graphic novels, as well as most things in life.
Science Fiction author Theodore Sturgeon was sick of defending his chosen art form from people who stated that 90% of Science Fiction was crap. Sturgeon replied that 90% of everything is crap.

Unfortunately reading The Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2 reminded me of this. Despite the best efforts of the creators this volume clearly falls into the 90% of crap. The idea behind the comics was that two Marvel heroes would join together and fight crime for an issue or two. Usually one of the characters was Spider-man as he was probably the most bankable hero Marvel had at this time. Spidey sold comics.

Sounds like a good idea, and it could be, but sadly this isn't it. Even the talents of Len Wein and Sal Buscema can't save it.

Heroes meet, heroes fight, heroes realise they are on the same side, heroes talk, heroes chase after bad guys. On an on in a mind numbing circle, issue after issue. I feel sorry for Wein and Buscema both hugely talented being forced to produce this crap.

One to avoid.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Glory of Rome

If you like historical fiction and enjoy reading about the Roman Empire then I have the series for you. Simon Scarrow's Eagle series is currently eight books long and deals with the Roman Empire from about 42AD.
The two main characters are Quintus Licinius Cato and Lucius Cornelius Marco. Marco is a centurion who has been a member of the Roman Army for years and is good at his job, killing people. He is illiterate, follows orders and is dependable, Cato on the other hand is a freed slave, who likes literature, is physically weak, and a fish out of water. Due to political reasons Cato is made Optio and is therefore Marco's second in command. No one treats him with any respect and they resent his quick rise to officer ranks when he hasn't proven himself capable of anything.

The series follows their adventures through Britain and into Judea as Marco and Cato fight with the Legions and get involved in political struggles within the Empire.

There is no danger of accusing Scarrow of originality in these novels, but they fly along at a cracking pace and don't let the reader down for a second. Scarrow's research and love for this period shine through, and help to make the series so easy to read.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Future World

Hiromoto-Sin-Ichi's manga Stone is a story that flies by at a million miles an hour.
After the world surface water has become thin quicksand people live on small islands in this sand sea, or sakai. These pockets of humanity try to survive by hunting Leviathans (mutated whales), while avoiding Devourers (mutated sharks).

Leviathans are now the dominant species on the planet and viciously attack humans if able.

Some of the fun of this manga and recognising things from science fiction movies and shows appearing in the background, as the author has admitted that this is a tribute to the world of science fiction.

Good for a distraction, reading this won't take long.

The legacy continues

The final book in the Star Wars Legacy of the Force series has come out and I must say I have enjoyed them all.
The last book is by Troy Denning and called Invincible. Jaina, now fully trained by Boba Fett is hunting down her brother Jacen, or Darth Caedus as he prefers to be known. The Galaxy is split in a massive civil war, and Luke has decided to unleash the Jedi on Darth Caedus and kill him for his crimes.

Darth Caedus though is probably the most powerful Sith Lord that has ever existed so Jaina's job will not be easy.

Overall the series has been good, though I must admit that I have enjoyed the books by Denning more than the other two authors. I'm not sure if this is because Denning got to explore all the interesting stuff or not, maybe his writing suits Star Wars better.

As I've said before enjoyable, but be warned this is a nine book series.

Not the Cincinnati you know (if you know Cincinnati)

Kim Harrison's series of novels featuring Rachel Morgan are lots of fun. Sure they can be cliched, and a little light on in the plot department, but there is still lots to enjoy.
According to the back story of this series 40 years ago a genetically engineered virus was released which kills half of the worlds population and exposes to the world the creatures that had been living in the shadows alongside humanity, vampires, werewolves, witches, demons etc.

Our hero Rachel Morgan is a witch who works for an agency who hunt down this night creatures when they break the law.
Morgan hates this job and sets out to make her own way by running her own business as a freelancer, using her skills to make a living, and staying alive as various supernatural nasties chase after her.

This is really chick lit with monsters, but Harrison has a light touch that makes it work, and fun to read. Sure sassy females using their wits and a little luck to survive are not uncommon in fiction, but Morgan is a good addition to their ranks.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Undying Swordsman

Hiroaki Samura has written and drawn one of the great graphic novels. Blade of the Immortal tells the story of the immortal samurai Manji and his quest to kill one thousand bad men. Set in Edo-era Japan this series has won many prestigious awards and is full of amazing artwork and a very engaging storyline.
I lost myself for hours reading this multi volume series, and recommend that fans of graphic novels do themselves a favour and read this. Blade of the Immortal also shows that not all manga is perky teenagers with spiky hair and weird powers.

In the army

Death's Head by David Gunn is a fun, adventure filled, brain-in-neutral kind of book. There is always an action scene around the next page, and the hero is the hard-as-nails bastard you expect in a science fiction military novel.
Sven, our hero, is so tough that he survives being whipped as punishment, and witnesses the slaughter of the garrison he is stationed at. After being held captive by aliens he is rescued by the galaxy's elite special ops force the Death's Head. He joins them and is sent on a special mission.

Don't stop reading if you've read all this before in a million other books. I never said it was original. What it is is a fun read, that won't make you think too hard, and sometimes that's just what the doctor ordered.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Death Star

I should declare this month Star Wars month as I find myself reading and reviewing another Star Wars book.
Anyway, this book by Michael Reeves and Steve Perry is about the construction and manning of the Death Star. As you can guess by the title, Death Star, the super space station is the main character. We are given glimpses into the lives of other people involved in the Death Star like pilots who fly TIEs to protect the construction, slaves who are doing the actual building, Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin the brains behind it.
The story itself is fine, but there are still some problems. Darth Vader seems to do nothing but loom menacingly in the background, while Tarkin schemes manically. You expect him to start rubbing his hands together while cackling. If only the authors had fleshed out these two main characters more, yes they are well known due to the films they appear in, but there is no attempt to take them any further than what we are used to.
An OK read, but even fans who miss it will not be any worse off.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Star Wars Infinities

Star Wars Infinities are a series of graphic novels based on each of the original films. In each book an event from the film is changed and the graphic novels deal with how this would have changed the outcome of the story.
For example in A New Hope Luke's torpedoes only cripple the Death Star and don't destroy it, in The Empire Strikes Back Luke dies of exposure before Han can save him, and in The Return of the Jedi Leia's attempt to rescue Han goes wrong.

These little twists allow the writers to explore different aspects of the Star Wars story and universe. They are by no means canon, but they are fun thought exercises that allow the writers to let their hair down.

Fans of Star Wars will enjoy these graphic novels.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Political Humour

I think this wonderful Mad poster speaks for itself.

Master and Apprentice

Darth Bane: The Rule of Two by Drew Karpyshyn charts how the great Sith Lord Darth Bane creates the Rule of Two to save the Sith. Bane despairs and the Sith and the way they were developing, as he tells his apprentice;
'Several apprentices would band together to take down a powerful Master, hoping to elevate their own position among the Sith. Then they would turn on one another, making and breaking alliances until only one remained - a new Master, but one weaker than the original. This survivor would then be taken down by another band of lesser Sith, further weakening our Order.'

No more, Bane institutes the Rule of Two. There will only be a Master and an Apprentice, one to embody the power the other to crave it.

As a Star Wars fan I have always found the Sith to be more interesting, and Karpyshyn makes Bane an interesting character who has a clearly defined morality, and reasoning, for becoming a Sith and walking down the path he has taken.

This book is for Star Wars fans, and I enjoyed reading it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Poor Bloody Infantry

Glen Cook's Black Company series tells of life in the Black Company Mercenaries. A once great company, they have fallen on hard times and are now working as glorified bodyguards. The series is narrated by Croaker the Company's medic and archivist.
Other characters include the Company magicians/sorcerers One-Eye and Tom-Tom, and the many other individuals who make up this rag-tag group of mercenaries. Cook has a fun ear for dialogue, as his characters never take each other too seriously.
These books are a fun read about a group of losers who make good despite themselves, and somehow come out on top.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Hellsing by Kohta Hirano is a great manga that doesn't take itself to seriously. The English government has a secret organisation, the Hellsing Organisation, that protects them from supernatural threats.
As the blurb states this manga 'jumps the fence of normalcy and runs of laughing into the dark.'
The main character is a hugely powerful vampire, Alucard, who does the bidding of the Hellsing Organisation and his side kick Seras Victoria.
Starring vampires, Nazis, ghouls, werewolves, the secret Vatican group called The Iscariot Organisation and lots and lots of over the top action this is a lot of fun.
(And yes Alucard is Dracula spelt backwards.)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Don't make him angry

I've just finished reading House of M: Incredible Hulk, I won't go into the complex backstory but will say that Bruce Banner has found peace of mind with an Aboriginal tribe but after the tribe is attacked the Hulk starts smashing and ends up leader of Australia.

Peter David knows the Hulk and his writing is usually good, and it is here as well with some brief psychological discussions of what the Hulk represents to Bruce.
Funniest moment is when Bruce starts using Aussie slang and says to a policeman who is threatening him, "I'll end up spewin', and you wouldn't like me when I'm spewin'."
Not a bad read, though the whole House of M shermozzle is a waste of good paper.

Friday, June 27, 2008


I have finally read Jack Kerouac's On The Road. I really enjoyed it and am glad I finally read it.
From the beginning our narrator speeds the reader along and after some false starts he's off.

"With the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the road."

Kerouac's tale captures the yearning to be free to explore, as well as the rhythms of the Beat generation.


Gerard Jones has written an amazing book called Killing Monsters. Why children need fantasy, superheroes and make believe violence. He questions a lot of our attitudes towards what we consider violent behaviour and how we react to it. This isn't to say he believes that anything should go, and kids don't need to be protected from violent images. Far from it, what he does discuss is the role play-fighting in the sand pit can have in children's development, and how inconclusive studies about the effects of violence are.
To quote the author;
"We ask absurdly sweeping questions like, what is the effect of media violence on children? as if violence were a single, simple phenomenon of which sandbox play-fights and mass murder mere variations, as if the evening news and Reservoir Dogs and Daffy Duck were indistinguishable, as if children were like trees in an orchard who could be raised to identical form by the same externalities."

As Jones' argues we are perfectly happy to discuss the complexities of life and love but we see violence and media violence, as a single monolithic problem. Nothing in life is that simple, or black and white.
Well worth reading, and sure to make you think about the world around you.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Jasper Fforde

I have been a big fan of the Tuesday Next series for awhile, but the latest book in the series, First Among Sequels, makes me feel that Fforde is running out of ideas.
The jokes seem flat, and the situations seem old hat. Normally I would get some good laughs but instead I found myself wishing it was over.

This book will probably not even entertain fans. Avoid to stop being bored.

The complete rules for good writing

  • A writer should not annoy half of his readers by using gender-specific language.
  • Always finish what you star
  • Avoid overuse of ampersands & abbreviations etc.
  • Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  • Always avoid annoying alliteration.
  • Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
  • Always pick on the correct idiom.
  • A writer must not shift your point of view.
  • Avoid cliches like the plague - they're so old hat.
  • Be more-or-less specific.
  • Consult the dictonary frequently to avoid mispeling.
  • Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
  • Contractions aren't necessary.
  • Do not use, unnecessary, commas.
  • Do not use a foreign word when there is an adequate English quid pro quo.
  • Do not use hyperbole; not even one in a million can do it effectively.
  • Don't repeat yourself and avoid being repetitive.
  • Don't use no double negatives.
  • Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
  • Don't indulge in sesquipedalian lexicological constructions.
  • Don't overuse exclamation marks!!!
  • Don't repeat yourself, or say again what you have said before.
  • 'Don't use unattributed quotations.'
  • Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, 'I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.'
  • Eschew obfuscation.
  • Employ the vernacular.
  • Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
  • Exaggeration is a million times worse than understatement.
  • Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  • Hopefully, you will use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
  • It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  • If you reread and reread your work and reread it again to weed out the weeds of repetition.
  • If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
  • It behooves you to avoid archaic expressions.
  • It is recommended that measures should be taken to ensure that the length of sentences is not excessive and that the complexity of said sentences is reduced.
  • Never use a big word where a diminutive alternative would suffice.
  • No sentence fragments.
  • Never use two words where a single expression will do.
  • One should never generalize.
  • One-word sentences? Eliminate. Always!
  • Parenthetical marks, however relevant, are unnecessary.
  • Parenthetical words like these should be enclosed in commas.
  • Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
  • Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of ten or more words, to their antecedents.
  • Placing a comma between subject and predicate, is not correct.
  • Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  • Refrain from being indirect.
  • Subject and verb always has to agree.
  • The recommendation is for the use of verbs rather than nouns.
  • Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixed metaphors.
  • The passive voice is to be ignored and should not be used.
  • Understatement is always best by far.
  • Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.
  • Use youre spell chekker to avoid mispelling and to catch typographical errers; thay always get it write.
  • When dangling, watch you participles.
  • Who needs rhetorical questions?

Friday, June 20, 2008

World War Hulk

As I have previously written, I was a big fan of the Planet Hulk storyline by Greg Pak. This was an interesting re-interpretation of the Hulk, and we got to see him in a new light.
When the story ended Hulk was travelling back to Earth to punish those who had sent him away. I was looking forward to reading this run, and am a fan of Pak's previous work, plus the Hulk was angrier than he had ever been, so this was surely going to rock.

But it didn't, sure the art is great John Romita Jr rarely lets you down, but the story lacks something. Maybe the companion pieces need to be read to enjoy the full story, but a major event like this should be able to be followed in the title comics.

After six issues it ends, with a fizz, in fact with all the force of an exploding soap bubble. Banner is led away to captivity, and the world goes back to the way it was. There seems to be no real growth or change inflicted by the massive event of the Hulk taking over New York.

I'll read it again I'm sure, just to see if I missed something, but it is a let down. You can't help but feel a major chance to tell an important story in the life of the Hulk was missed.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Playing in the band

Mark Seymour, lead singer of Hunters and Collectors, has released a band bio called Thirteen Tonne Theory. The book charts the success and failure of trying to become famous, and sell records etc. While being part of a band that decided to share everything equally, and all major decisions were put to a vote.
Seymour is an engaging writer and the way the book is set out makes it fun to read. Instead of just going through events one after the other, Seymour presents each chapter as a small vignette, covering one topic each. Therefore the book reads really quickly, and the reader is never bogged down in uninteresting moments.

Fans of the Hunners will enjoy this book as Seymour is not afraid to highlight bad things he did while part of the band, or things that other people did. This book is also for fans of Australian Music. I enjoyed it immensely.

Friday, June 6, 2008


Robert Ludlum may never challenge Tom Clancy for complete multi-media takeover, especially now that he has passed away, but Ludlum's creations live on especially Jason Bourne.
Bourne has been the subject of spin-off novels, movies and now has his own video game. The game follows the story of the first novel and uses flashbacks to fill in the details about who Bourne is, as he remembers previous hits he completed.
Thankfully the game does not use the likeness of Matt Damon (or Maaaattt Daaaaamoooon as he is also known) which I think is a good move, Bourne should not be defined by the movies, Ludlum described how Bourne looked before Damon played him.
Anyway play the game and become a 30 million dollar weapon.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Imagine finding out everything you thought you knew about your life was false. In actual fact your absent father was a super-villain and the greatest assassin on the planet, code named the Killer.
This is what faces Wesley Gibson in Mark Millar's Wanted. Gibson embraces his new found life-style after his father is killed and he stands to inherit millions of dollars. Taking on the persona of the Killer, Gibson joins the vast underground super-villain network and soon finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy.
This graphic novel is a fun read, Millar is obviously letting his hair down and telling a story that the mainstream publishing houses wouldn't have produced. The story is violent, sexy, full of swear words and flies along at a million miles. Well worth getting hold of a copy.
There is also a movie about to be released starring Angelina Jolie, James McAvoy and Morgan Freeman. Millar has said he thinks the film will be good, even though it bears little resemblance to his original story. I for one am looking forward to seeing it.