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TV Show Review: Forever

I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for procedurals. JAG, CSI, Lie to Me, House, Castle, Criminal Minds, Mentalist, Bones, Elementary, White Collar… – I have watched and loved them all! Give me a procedural with a speculative aspect and I am in my uber happy place. Shows like Blood Ties, Moonlight and even Tru Calling really did it for me. So I was delighted to discover the brand new TV show due to air this Autumn on ABC. It’s called Forever and stars Ioan Gruffudd, an actor I had a mega crush on when I was a kid and addicted to the Hornblower series. Gruffudd’s soulful eyes and accent aside, Forever made me all kinds of excited and it certainly wasn’t because of the IMDB description:

A 200-year-old man works in the New York City Morgue trying to find a key to unlock the curse of his immortality.

Forever

When I first read that rather dry one-liner, I went ‘nah’ and moved on to the next new series of Fall 2015, but then reviews started dribbling onto the net and I saw some promo pics and I realized that there was a hell of a lot more to this story. See, that 200-year-old man, Henry Morgan (Gruffudd), isn’t some creepy janitor mopping the mortuary floors and getting cozy with the corpses, he’s the NYPD’s medical examiner! He’s a highly intelligent doctor with a savant-like eye for detail, a somewhat brooding countenance and a dry wit to boot, and his days aren’t spent pondering his immortality so much as they are running around New York City with an ultra slick female Latina detective, Jo Martinez, who is as badass as she is beautiful. She’s a strong, independent female character in a male dominated field who could give Kate Beckett a run for her money and I find her an interesting and compelling character, if not quite as interesting as Mr Immortal. So, the show’s description probably should’ve read something like this:

A 200-year-old man works as a crime-solving ME in New York City while trying to unlock the secret of his immortality before a know-it-all stranger threatens to destroy his carefully constructed world.

Now that sounds exciting and is far closer to the gist of this story, which is equal parts police procedural and sci-fi mystery – yup, there’s a whole immortal sub-plot lurking in the background and I know it’s going to be unnerving and awesome! I thoroughly enjoyed the pilot and have remained captivated through the other episodes that have aired. This is due in part to Ioan Gruffudd owning the screen with his portrayal of a sometimes arrogant, often endearingly naive, always quirky character as he navigates the modern era with his sexagenarian side-kick who provides comic relief and food for thought. While certain aspects of the show seem a little familiar – hard to avoid given that this is a police procedural after all – there is enough of an emphasis on the science fiction aspect – or arguably fantasy aspect, we’re not sure yet – to make this series seem fresh and unique when compared to the bevy of other procedurals currently on air.

My biggest gripe about this show? The bloody voice-overs! I point my fingers at the CW for turning this into a trend. Voice-overs have always been a lazy, but easy way of conveying exposition to an audience, be it words scrolling on the screen or the main character dictating a screed of ‘stuff you need to know.’ I have NEVER been a fan of this trick so pervasive in SF/F film, and I’m even less of a fan with it on the small screen. Shows like Arrow, The Tomorrow People and now The Flash are all guilty of it and the whole ‘my name is’ formula is getting old fast. While I could forgive the voice-over in the pilot of Forever as a way to set the scene and explain the main SF concept to those perhaps expecting a more mundane crime show, I am fast losing my tolerance for it in subsequent episodes. Thank goodness they seem to be sticking to an intro voice-over and an end of episode wrap-up comment with a slightly philosophical tone. Any more than that and I think I might put my fist through the screen. Still, this is a trend I wish would die a sudden death!

In conclusion, Forever is great for fans of procedurals with a sci-fi bent who enjoy quirky characters, more thinking/less action, and slower pacing for subplots. If it weren’t for those damn voice-overs, this might’ve scored 5 ink splats from me because this show has just about everything I look for in smart, entertaining TV. Alas, it only gets 4.5 splats.

4.5 inksplats

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in Guest Reviews, Reviews

 

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Film Review: Space Station 76

sq_space_station_sevensixDescription from Amazon: Welcome to a 1970s’ version of the future, where the pants are wide, the music is groovy, and the new frontier is interplanetary. When a new assistant captain (Liv Tyler) arrives on the Omega 76, tensions spark, and more than asteroids collide. This smart and quirky film-festival favorite stars Patrick Wilson, Jerry O’Connell and Matt Bomer. Take a journey on an out-of-this-world adventure.

Looking at reviews and IMDB ratings of this film paint a pretty bleak picture. It has not been well received and that is absolutely the fault of how this film has been marketed. Erroneously described as a ‘spoof’ of 1970’s sci-fi, initial press for this film raised certain expectations, expectations of camp hilarity, which were somewhat reiterated in the trailer. Honestly, the trailer manages to cram in just about all the funny bits of the film – and a few scenes that didn’t even make the final cut – in a two minute teaser that completely ignores context and undermines what makes this film both smart and poignant.

Like so many others, I went in expecting comedy – which is a genre I rarely enjoy and usually avoid, endured here only because it was a) science fiction and b) starred Matt Bomer who was breath-taking in The Normal Heart. Given my distaste for comedy, this movie was a wonderfully pleasant surprise because I didn’t find Space Station 76 funny at all. Instead, this film is quite tragic, a soap-opera allegory with scattered moments of pitch-black humor. Oddly, this type of wry, even off-colour humour, appealed to me a lot more than the type of comedy the trailer and promos led me to believe were in the film.

Back to the bit about it being an allegory. This is where the film shows off that ‘smart and quirky’ personality, delving into the trials and tribulations of upper middle-class suburban life aboard a space station floating through a region of the galaxy devoid of any other ships, inhabited planets or signs of life. It’s this pervasive sense of isolation that becomes a recurring theme as we meet the motley crew of characters, each suffering some sort of emotional disconnect, not only from the rest of the station’s crew, but from themselves as well. The themes present in this film are universal and relevant today despite the retro setting, which is used to highlight the disintegration of the ‘American’ dream. Although this is set in space, the film presents itself like a slice of American apple-pie life: good-looking on the surface but rotten to the core.

These characters broke my heart, but none more so the leading trio of the captain, lieutenant and Ted played by Patrick Wilson, Liv Tyler and Matt Bomer respectively. Wilson’s role in particular was as morbidly amusing as it was incredibly sad as his character struggles with issues of identity and the complication of trying to love someone when you hate yourself. Liv Tyler plays the strong female character threatening Wilson’s already compromised captaincy with her estrogen and new ideas for running the station. She in turn catches the eye of the other males onboard and the scorn of their wives, struggling to make friends while maintaining her independence in a psychological paradigm where women should be subordinate nurturers, not career-driven astronauts! And of course Matt Bomer shines no matter what role he’s given. His portrayal of Ted the welder comes across as extremely authentic with many raw moments on screen – especially between him and his character’s young daughter. Ted highlights the lack of emotional integrity in those around him, overcoming the sometimes gauche elements of the film.

While I did enjoy the movie, I found the ending a little abrupt and disappointing, as if they’d made their point and decided to leave it there instead of providing some sort of thematic resolution. I think the writers/director could’ve dug a little deeper, but I guess the 90 minute mark rolled around and they had to yell cut. So be it. Rather leave me wanting more than wishing the movie was an hour shorter!

So… Don’t watch Space Station 76 expecting a slick, CGI-tastic sci-fi movie – although the same team who did the effects for the original Star Wars films, worked on the set of this one! Similarly, don’t go in expecting a raucously funny Austin Powers-esque romp. This movie is neither and so much more. It’s a study of human nature and family drama, the secrets we keep from our loved ones and the lies we tell ourselves in order to survive the daily grind of existence. This scores 4/5 ink splats!

4 inksplats

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2014 in Guest Reviews, Reviews

 

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A review of NIGHT WITCHES by L. J. Adlington

Hi everyone, I’m new to the blog *waves* Thank you Dave for inviting me over to review some super cool speculative fiction. I’ll mostly be reviewing YA books, but I’ll also review the odd film or two. I have a quirky taste in books and films so I hope my reviews will introduce you to lesser known but no less awesome SF/F stories.

 

About me in a nutshell:

My name is Suzanne and I’m a tattooed story-teller from South Africa, but I currently live in Finland where I hibernate during the long winters writing, reading and watching everything under the speculative fiction banner – except horror, because I’m a wuss. I have a peanut butter addiction and a shibu inu called Lego. You can find out more about me and my books at my website. And instead of giving you a picture of my face, I thought I’d show you the cover of my forthcoming YA novel, I HEART ROBOT, because this cover is so much prettier ;)

You can also hang out with me on Twitter or Facebook if you’d prefer.

 

And now for the review…

A supernatural thriller-romance set in an all-girl teenage bomber-pilot regiment, combining witchcraft and legend.

TWO NATIONS AT WAR. ONE GIRL CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE. Rain Aranoza is a teenage bomber-pilot from Rodina, a nation of science and fact ruled by the all knowing Aura, where the belief in witches or any type of superstition is outlawed. Rain’s regiment is made up of only teenage girls and their role is vital to the war effort against the Crux, a nation of faith and belief, where nature and God are celebrated and worshipped.

But Rain is struggling with another battle. She’s always had a sense that her nature is different from everyone else’s, and that a dormant power threatens to burst out of her.

When she encounters a young Scrutiner she falls in love with him, but is torn between what she has been taught is right, and what feels right. As her understanding of her latent power grows, the enemy threatens both her friends and her love. She can no longer ignore the power but she must choose how she uses it … But what will she lose in the process?

Amazon

When I reached the end of this novel, four words came to mind: Brilliant! Amazing! Original! Enthralling!
 
To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect when I picked this up at the library. The cover immediately caught my attention (hooray for a person of colour being on the cover!) and then that blurb. Teenage bomber pilots? Sign me up! This book was astonishingly good, the perfect blend of science and fantasy starring a sympathetic MC who I adored. That said, it was the secondary characters who stole the show here, and one of the secondary characters was even genderqueer.
 
This book scored lots of points for diversity. What really had me captivated though wasn’t the MC, or the cool planes, or the love interest with tattooed eyelids (creepy and awesome), but rather the world. The author weaves a rich tapestry that pits religion against science, humanity against artificial intelligence, and nature against machine using appropriate vocabulary and teenage slang born from the fantastic world the characters live in. This all added a most authentic feel to the book and had me fully immersed in the story world from cover to cover.
 
What sealed the 5 ink splat deal for me was finding out this story was inspired by the real night witches: all-female fighter pilots from the Soviet Union who became a rather formidable force during WWII. The fact that this bit of history is woven into the story, including thematic material gleaned from Stalinist philosophy, added an extra dimension to the book, one which I found fascinating and terrifying, especially considering the YA demographic for which this book is intended. It was a brave move by the author and one she executed flawlessly.
 
I strongly recommend this book to anyone looking for a strong YA science fantasy featuring diverse characters in an incredibly well-constructed world. This book gets 5/5 ink-splats from me! Right, I’m off to find more books by this author.

 

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Review: No Return by Zachary Jernigan

Hey everyone, hope you’re all well. :-)

It’s been a while since I posted a review, I know, but I’ve been focusing on writing my second novel and time is always a problem! But I’m back with a review of the first novel set in the World of Jeroun – No Return.

This novel is brilliant. The world of Jeroun is incredible and terrifying – a world where the skins of a dead race can be used for power and protection; where mages use their magic to enter into the planet’s orbit; where a god looks down on Jeroun and wrestles with a decision that could mean the end of everything and everyone.

There is so much going on in this novel! As a writer I was astounded by how much Zachary managed to pour into this tale – as with Erikson’s massive narratives, the myriad stories taking place on Jeroun are all memorable and intriguing, adding not only a sense of vast time and history to the world but also managing to echo in the thoughts of the characters, giving them even more flesh and emotion. The people of Jeroun are inherently terrified of their world and the god above them, and how this terror and stubbornness exists alongside the excellent world-building is truly something sublime to explore.

But Zachary’s characters are the stars, here – Vedas, Churls, Berun, Ebn, Pol and even Adrash shine in each chapter they appear in. Vedas seems to be the lodestone of the narrative, but really only when taking the climax into consideration, but each of the others also play very significant roles throughout the tale, managing to stand on their own, for their own unique reasons. I’m actually terrified of what some of them could achieve – and here I’ll make another comparison to Erikson: as when a particularly powerful mage in the Malazan world unveils his or her warren or warrens and the reader is astounded at the level of power and capacity for destruction, the same applies here. Psychologically, these characters are incredibly complicated, and how some of them interact with each other gives the novel its heart and emotional centre. Zachary manages to explore a great variety of subjects through his characters, another reason why this novel works on many levels.

In fact, I want to re-read it before the next book, Shower of Stones, is released – not to refresh my memory, but to learn as much as I can from Zachary’s writing – he has, alongside Steven Erikson, become a writer I know I will learn a lot from. But forget about that – No Return is at once a twisted, dirty-mirror echo of the kinds of fantasy that has come before it, and also something new, bold and visionary. Hell of a read.

10 / 10

no_return

Check out Zachary’s site for all the info you’ll need regarding how and where to order, as well as more information about his short stories (I’ll be reviewing Bottom of the Sea next) and his other work.

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2014 in Reviews

 

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Review: A Fury of Aces: Book 2 – Crystal Venom by Steve Wheeler

I’m a big fan of intelligent, innovative Space Opera, and I knew I had found something cool when I read Steve’s first ‘Aces’ novel, Burnt Ice. I’m pleased to say that Crystal Venom continues to deliver!

The characters from Burnt Ice are back, and are thrust into even more danger and intrigue; the conspiracies and threats they went up against in the first book are revealed to be much more far-reaching, and Steve does a great job of not only dropping hints in every chapter but also in keeping the reader guessing as to who the ‘enemy’ is.

Marko, the principle character from Burnt Ice, is challenged and tested in this book, too – not only does he have to deal with the aftermath of what he and his fellow crew members went through prior to Crystal Venom, but also his growing stature within the group, being a ‘parent’, as well as being a ‘celebrity’ – Marko’s characterization is deeper in this book, which sets the scene nicely for the person he may or may not become in book 3, and his growth affects his fellow characters, as well as the other way round. There are plenty of surprises in this book, particularly concerning the paths of Marko’s friends and loved-ones.

World-building-wise, Steve expands on the universe he introduced in Burnt Ice, but not too much – while there are organizations that are still shrouded in mystery and questions, much is revealed of others , letting the reader occupy a much better position from which to ‘place’ themselves in the tale and understand the different factions. And once again Steve makes all the tech as interesting and cool as in book 1, not only letting the tech service the story but taking the reader through the evolution of the tech as the characters do more with what they have.

There’s plenty of good Space Opera out there, and Steve’s series sit comfortably among them – highly recommended! :-)

8 / 10

burnt_ice

Order Burnt Ice from Amazon for your Kindle and in paperback.

crystal_venom

Order Crystal Venom from Amazon for your Kindle and in paperback. And check out the Fury of Aces page on Facebook – Steve has been building models of the ships and vehicles from his series and they are definitely must-see’s! :-)

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2014 in Reviews

 

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The Legacy Blog Tour – Review: The Legacy by Melissa Delport (Tracey McDonald Publishers)

Morning! Hope you’re all well and ready for the weekend! :-)

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Today is my slot on the massive blog tour organized by Tracey McDonald for the first novel in Melissa’s trilogy. :-) Melissa is a fellow South African author living in Kwa-Zulu Natal, a wife and mother of three kids, but that hasn’t stopped her from writing, and writing well, at that.

Here’s the blurb for The Legacy:

World War Three lasted twelve days. Twelve days was all it took for mankind to devastate the planet and almost eradicate the human race. No victor emerged from the ashes and billions lost their lives.

We survivors lived through the bleakest of winters. A primal existence became the new order, and the little that remained of our humanity hung in the balance.

Then one man stood up and changed the world. I believed, as did everyone else, that he was the hero of our time, the man who had saved us from our own demise. His name is Eric Dane and he is the President of the New United States of America. 

He is also my husband, and my greatest enemy.

I grew up oblivious to the truth, until my father found me when I was nineteen years old. He told me about the many horrifying facts that our new leader kept hidden from us. And he told me that beyond the borders the Resistance grew and fought for freedom from the oppression that Eric Dane had imposed on us.

My name is Rebecca Davis. I am twenty-six years old, and in me the Resistance has found the ultimate weapon.

***

Now, I haven’t read much in the Dystopian genre, mainly because I write Epic Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror (so I read in the genres that I write), and also because there’s so much Dystopian fiction being written for Young Adults – which I’ve got absolutely nothing against. My reading tastes just lie in a different direction. So when I began reading The Legacy I was expecting another YA Dystopian tale along the lines of The Hunger Games (watched the movies, haven’t read the books), and boy, was I pleasantly surprised! The Legacy is aimed at a mature readership, so parents might want to give the book a read first before letting their kids at it.

Not being constrained by the limits of YA, Melissa was able to really delve into the characters and world of the book. These are adults fighting a war, after all, and war isn’t pretty.

The main character of the novel, Rebecca, is a wonderful addition to the ranks of Strong Female Characters – she’s highly intelligent, motivated, passionate, and focused. We meet her as a teenager, getting a glimpse into the life she was living before she became part of the Resistance against Eric Dane and the New United States of America; her father disappeared at the onset of the Nuclear War and she’s had to grow up in a radically changed world without her father and with a family not her own. And she’s happy and leads a good life, until events focus on her and force her to make a decision that will change not only her life but the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of others.

From the onset the reader knows that Rebecca has hidden depths, but the author doesn’t show all her cards at once – instead, information is revealed at key points, not only advancing the plot but adding more layers to Rebecca’s character. None of it came across as forced or contrived, and the journey of discovering Rebecca and the world she lives in is pulled off effortlessly and with respect to the reader.

There are many other characters in the novel that shine – members of the Resistance take centre stage alongside Rebecca, fulfilling their various roles well, while also building a collection of threads that all lead back to Rebecca, and before the climax of the novel begins the reader knows exactly where the characters stand and where the plot is headed – at least, I thought I did, but Melissa still managed to throw a couple of interesting surprises my way.

The world-building of the novel was pulled off well, too – there is a reason for everything, especially the new government and the Resistance. For example, I still don’t know what happened in The Hunger Games that so radically changed society to the levels shown in the movies – it’s just a fact of the story that I was forced to accept. Melissa, though, explains what happened to the world and how someone like Eric Dane could rise to take such a prominent place in it.

And what Melissa also does is write great action! There’s plenty of Bond-like subterfuge in the novel (Rebecca leads two lives, after all), sneaking around and such, but when the characters are forced into hand-to-hand combat it’s pretty evident that Melissa put a lot of thought into how the characters moved, attacked and defended. There’s a completely awesome side to the combat, regarding what some of the characters can do, but I’m not going to spoil it for you – suffice it to say that Melissa successfully melded Dystopian with a certain genre-craze that has controlled the box office for a couple of years now… :-)

Regarding the personal relationships between the characters, Melissa manages to make the various relationships both believable and heartfelt; obviously there’s more of a focus on Rebecca than the other characters, but the emotional depth of the book impressed me. Also, Melissa teaches Stephanie Meyer just how to write a believable complicated romance – totally believable and entertaining. :-)

All in all, The Legacy is a better tale, in my opinion, than The Hunger Games could ever hope to be, and is an excellent example of the kind of storytelling promise South African writers have. Melissa has written an entertaining, engaging and thoughtful tale full of intelligent, brave characters, excellent action, great world-building and a great respect and understanding of Dystopian fiction. Highly recommended!

9 / 10

Cover - The Legacy

The Legacy is available throughout South Africa at Exclusive Books branches and can also be ordered online (paperback and EPUB) – it’s also available via Amazon (Kindle and paperback), Amazon UK (Kindle and paperback), and from Barnes & Noble.

Photo - Melissa Delport LR

To connect with Melissa, check out her official website here and the official website for the Legacy Trilogy here; you can also check out The Legacy Book Club on Facebook, add the book on Goodreads and check out her publisher’s website here.

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2014 in Blog Tour, Reviews

 

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Review: Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh (Orbit Books)

The blurb:

In the future, love is complicated and death is not necessarily the end. Love Minus Eighty follows several interconnected people in a disquieting vision of romantic life in the century to come.

There’s Rob, who accidentally kills a jogger, then sacrifices all to visit her in a cryogenic dating facility, seeking forgiveness but instead falling in love.

Veronika, a shy dating coach, finds herself coaching the very woman who is stealing the man she loves.

And Mira, a gay woman accidentally placed in a heterosexual dating center near its inception, desperately seeks a way to reunite with her frozen partner as the years pass.

In this daring and big-hearted novel based on the Hugo-winning short story, the lovelorn navigate a world in which technology has reached the outer limits of morality and romance.

***

This novel is, without a doubt, unique.

When I began reading it I tried not to have any preconceptions of what to expect – from the blurb I knew that I would be reading a love story set in a high-tech world; I wasn’t expecting aliens or spaceships or epic weapons, and neither should you. Rather, expect something new. For instance, the tale’s opening scene: a woman, woken from some sort of coma – except she hasn’t been in a coma. She’s dead, has been for years, and she’s been drafted (without her consent or knowledge) into what is basically a dating service.

What a premise, right? Yep, I was hooked from the beginning, too.

You see, what this story does is explore love, relationships, and friendships against a backdrop of immortality and social media – death has been eradicated, though the price is beyond exorbitant; you can live a life of influence, with all the notoriety and success that comes with such a life, but the price you pay for it is your privacy.

Each character’s tale explores aspects of this world: Rob’s path takes him into the meat and tech of the world, revealing just how insane such a world can be, yet at the same time offering a glimpse of the happiness everyone is searching for; Veronika finds herself in that quintessential Catch-22 situation: able to give advice but utterly unable to follow advice. And Mira’s situation is perfect at exploring just how we are forced do to things that aren’t in our character if it means we have just a chance at finding what we’ve been searching for.

And the tech in this tale is at once dazzling and terrifying – I really hope that Will hasn’t had an accurate vision of the future, but unfortunately I can’t help thinking that advances in technology coupled with social media are taking the world in exactly this direction.

We already live in a world where being connected (whether it’s via Twitter, Facebook or InstaGram) grants you a certain social status – if you’re connected then you know what’s happening in the world from instant to instant, leading you to believe that you’re informed and can have a knowledgeable opinion, but the cost, as explored in this tale, is that you know more about the world and less about your loved ones, and even yourself.

Love Minus Eighty” is an excellent read, at once an exploration and a vision of just how we, as emotional beings, continue to try and live alongside technology that can either increase the distances between us or bring us closer together. Highly recommended!

10 / 10

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To order your copies of “Love Minus Eighty“, click the following links: Exclusive Books, Book Depository, Amazon US, Amazon UK. And check out Will’s website for more info on him and his work.
Be EPIC!
 
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Posted by on June 20, 2014 in Reviews

 

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