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Review: The Rage Wars – Book One: Predator – Incursion by Tim Lebbon

Predator Incursion

Hey everyone, Dave here. :)

I had high expectations for this after reading Tim’s excellent Star Wars novel, and Tim managed to knock even my expectations aside.

The characters in this are superbly written and fleshed out, with their own believable motivations – quite a feat, considering that Incursion is also a fast-paced novel which expands along two different timelines, includes a lot of cool, new information on the Colonial Marines, the Predators and other groups, and has plenty of awesome action.

One of my favourite characters -introduced in the very beginning of the novel- has an interesting, important and ever-building arc which ties her to basically all of the novel’s events, while the other characters unravel the mystery of the novel’s premise is different, attention-holding ways. Most never meet but all have an important part to play.

The Predators were awesome handled – they remain the powerful, incredibly dangerous and mysterious race we have come to like and yet Tim also deepens their mystery while adding more layers to their society. Tim really should be the go-to guy if Titan wants a Predators-only novel.

The action was frenetic and brutal, as we’ve come to expect from anything involving the Xenomorphs and the Predators, and the plot is really damned good – Fox should have waited for this novel to arrive; I’m pretty sure they would have been orders of magnitude more successful with this trilogy.

There’s even a link to one of the Predator movies which deepens the immersion into this universe.

All in all, highly recommended! You should definitely be reading this if you’re a fan of this universe. Looking forward to the next novel in the trilogy! 9/10

Predator Incursion

Predator – Incursion was published by Titan Books; the second book in the trilogy, Alien – Invasion will be published this year, so keep an eye on Tim’s and Titan’s websites for more information.

To order your copies, click here for Amazon UK, here for Amazon US, and here if you’re in South Africa.

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2016 in Reviews, Uncategorized

 

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Film Review: Ex Machina

Ages ago I saw the trailer for this ‘indie’ film – directed by The Beach writer Alex Garland – featuring relatively unknown actors and a really interesting looking plot. Then I completely forgot about it until I was bored over the holidays and accidentally stumbled across it thanks to the suggested watch-list on IMDB. So I watched it and I was not disappointed.

ex machina

I love films about artificial intelligence. All the various forms and manifestations and imaginings these types of stories come up with never cease to amaze me, and lately, possibly bore me, because so many of these stories fall into trope-ish territory and become extremely predictable while trying to be thought-provoking.

Ex Machina starts out feeling familiar but strange, playing with the ‘mad scientist’ theme while giving us a ‘normal dude’ to champion through all the indie-film weirdness. Then comes the main body of the plot, which starts to feel even more familiar and predictable, and I endured with a multitude of sighs thinking I knew exactly where the story was going. Without ruining a rather unexpected and pretty interesting ending, suffice it to say, I did not see that coming and found the twist rather refreshing and genuinely thought provoking about how our humanity could be used against us by more subtle and insidious machines. Honestly, I felt a lot more freaked out by some of the ideas presented in this film than I have with any other AI story.

There was a lot to like about this movie, but I think Garland (writer and director of this movie) still played it safe in presenting male human characters creating and becoming entranced by a beautiful, sexy, sensual female android. There was literal objectification of women going on in this movie and not in a snarky, feminist-undertone kind of way. The entire premise actually relied on the tired idea of an average man being beguiled by a beautiful woman, a femme fatale even. I think it would’ve been fascinating to explore the same story idea with the genders reversed.

That said, this movie still made me think long after the credits rolled and I really enjoyed Alicia Vikander as the android Ava. Ex Machina gets 3.5/5 ink splats from me.

3.5 inksplats

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2016 in Reviews

 

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‘The War of the Worlds’ Sequel from Gollancz and Stephen Baxter

Hey Folks, Dave here – with some very exciting news!

On the 19th of January, 2017, the sequel to one of the best-loved SF-tales ever will be published! Titled The Massacre of Mankind , the sequel will be written by Stephen Baxter and will chronicle the Martian’s return to Earth.

In Stephen Baxter’s terrifying sequel, set in late 1920s London, the Martians return, and the war begins again. But the aliens do not repeat the mistakes of their last invasion. They know how they lost last time. They target Britain first, since we resisted them last time. The massacre of mankind has begun.

Steve Baxter said: “HG Wells is the daddy of modern SF. He drew on deep traditions, for instance of scientific horror dating back to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and fantastic voyages such as Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726).

“And he had important near-contemporaries such as Jules Verne. But Wells did more than any other writer to shape the form and themes of modern science fiction, and indeed through his wider work exerted a profound influence on the history of the twentieth century. Now it’s an honour for me to celebrate his enduring imaginative legacy, more than a hundred and fifty years after his birth.”

Marcus Gipps, Gollancz Commissioning Editor and the editor overseeing the book, said, “Steve has a great track record of collaborating with other authors, from Arthur C. Clarke and Alastair Reynolds to Terry Pratchett. I’ve seen early material from this remarkable new project, and can’t wait to unleash Steve’s new Martian terror upon the world.”

The Massacre of Mankind will be published in hardback, £20, and eBook, £19.99, on the 19th January 2017.

I’m looking forward to it! :)

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Film Review: The Martian

Back in March, I reviewed this book knowing I would eventually end up seeing the film, which I did!

The_Martian_film_poster

It’s a proven fact that any book-to-movie adaptation is going to divide an audience into those you think it was done well to the point of being fantastic and possibly better than the text, and those who think it was done badly to the point of being a travesty against the written word itself. It’s rare that someone who has enjoyed a book – loved it even – will take the middle ground with the film adaptation. Strangely, I find myself feeling about the movie quite the same way I felt about the book, which is that it’s helluva entertaining, but lacks gravitas, and thus I’m in that liminal middle-ground regarding this adaptation.

The Martian is Ridley Scott in high-gear, not quite Gladiator gear given a few peculiar editing sequences (more noticeable if you’ve read the book) and no breathtaking Hans Zimmer score to accompany it (I honestly could’ve even remember the music in the movie – composed by Harry Gregson-Williams who can certainly compose some awesome scores!). I actually went to the cinema to watch this with my husband who has read the book too and a few other friends, none of whom had read the book – so opinions after the credits rolled were going to be interesting, and I suspected, divisive.

So…

I enjoyed the film. It was funny, managing to capture quite a bit of Mark Watney’s humor while maintaining its PG rating, and Matt Damon did a good job of showing a more emotional-psychological aspect of the character. I still wanted more however. The tone of the film was kept light and breezey, at times even lighter than the book, playing up the absurdity of his situation rather than the serious life-or-death nature of Watney’s every action and decision. Consequently, the movie – like the book – was highly entertaining, but was a little disappointing because it seemed to make his journey appear a lot easier than in the book. What made the book exceptional was how it showed Watney’s thought processes and his step by step ‘applying the scientific method’ approach to everything he did. In the movie, much of his space-MacGyvering is whittled down to Eureka moments that never really show just how intelligent, adaptive, and resourceful the character is in the book. Those who have read the book will undoubtedly be disappointed that certain key parts of the narrative and some particularly nasty mishaps on Mars are left out of the film altogether. Because a lot of the method gets skimmed over, if addressed at all, there are certain things that simply are in the film without any explanation – such as the ‘balloon’ on the rover. This frustrated my friends who hadn’t read the book because they felt like they had missed something, and this frustrated me who had read the book because it was clear the movie-makers had missed something! That said, the scenery is spectacular and at no point did I ever not believe I was actually on Mars. For that reason alone, I am extremely thankful I went to see this on the big screen.

The verdict on this film is much like the verdict on the book: entertaining, engrossing while watching, humorous and good press for NASA and science in general, but not a story that will leave me thinking, pondering existential questions, or haunted by the plight of this lonely astronaut – all things I believe this story should and could’ve done without losing any of its cool sci-fi-ness. Still, this scores 4/5 ink splats.

4 inksplats

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2015 in Reviews

 

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Gail Z Martin Guest Post: Days of the Dead Blog Tour 2015!

Hey folks, Dave here, and though I’m a bit late to the proceedings I’ve got Gail Z Martin’s guest post for her awesome Day of the Dead Blog Tour – the 2015 edition! :)

Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications

Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications

Gail Z. Martin is the author of the upcoming novel Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Dec. 2015, Solaris Books) as well as the epic fantasy novel Shadow and Flame (March, 2016 Orbit Books) which is the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. Shadowed Path, an anthology of Jonmarc Vahanian short stories set in the world of The Summoner, debuts from Solaris books in June, 2016.

Other books include The Jake Desmet Adventures a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin as well as Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) from Orbit Books and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities from Solaris Books.  

Gail writes four series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures, The King’s Convicts series, and together with Larry N. Martin, The Storm and Fury Adventures. Her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Realms of Imagination, Heroes, With Great Power, and (co-authored with Larry N. Martin) Space, Contact Light, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens.

The Days of the Dead Blog Tour happens every year (check out what’s already been happening at the main website), and during this time Gail shares excerpts from her books, has plenty of giveaways and always manages to come up with excellent guest posts, among all the other things happening. :)

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This year, Gail wrote a guest post that plenty (if not ALL writers) will want to read; one of the biggest problems we face as writers is making sure that readers know about our work, where to get it, and a bit about ourselves, too. We may not be offering products like BluRay players, cell phones and smart cars, but we still need to market our works and ourselves. In short, if a writer struggles with marketing, that writer struggles more and longer than those who don’t.

So here’s Gail’s guest post, focusing on Marketing for Writers:

***

Selling Your Soul – By Gail Z. Martin

It’s a deal you can’t refuse. Everything you’ve ever wanted. The man making the offer is dressed in black with a tall top hat, and you had to meet him at a crossroads at midnight, but that’s okay. It’s going to make your dreams come true. You don’t even realize, until later, that the pen that signed the contract wrote in blood.

Welcome to book marketing. Otherwise known as, the things we do for love.

Once upon a time, writers just wrote. Publishers took care of everything else. The mechanism by which a book became a bestseller—or a good-enough-to-get-more-contracts seller—was a black box, somewhere between alchemy and Voodoo. The book went in, the wheels went around and around, a bestseller came out. Like sausage—don’t ask what’s in the mix. But for a long time, that system worked, so I’m told.

It’s a brave new world these days. Even the most committed big publishers can only spare a small amount of promotional mojo for new authors or rising mid-listers. Most of the energy and the big bucks go toward recouping the large advances paid to the superstar authors. That means less effort and energy spent developing new talent, creating breakthrough opportunities, and developing visibility. Small presses are doing a great job bringing new authors to market and serving niche markets, but they have very little marketing muscle to offer aside from social media.

The work still has to be done. Guess who does it? Yep—you, the author.

We could talk all day about book promotion (and I have), but let me highlight the five most important tools every writer needs to compete in today’s very cluttered publishing environment. These five are essential whether you publish with a big traditional publisher, a small press or whether you self-publish. They’re the backbone of your marketing efforts. When you want to get fancy, you can add all kinds of bells and whistles, but without these five elements, you won’t have a foundation on which to build. Ready?

No. 1—A good author website.  Buy your domain name, don’t settle for a freebie site that is just a meaningless jumble of letters. First choice would be www.yourname.com or www.yourfirstnameinitiallastname.com. If those are taken, try www.yournameauthor.com. Avoid picking a domain for a character’s name or a series if you intend to be in the game for a long time. (If you’ve already done that and have an investment in your site, see if you can get your name as a domain and redirect the URL.)  I’m not a fan of .net or the other extensions because no one thinks of them—they go straight to .com.

If you do your website in WordPress, you can make most of your updates yourself. I’d suggest paying someone who is better at web design and web graphics than you are to do the layout. After that, you can probably keep up with it yourself. This is your home base. It should be on all your bookmarks and on your email signature, on the back cover of your books and on your blog posts—literally everywhere.

No. 2—An email newsletter. But wait—haven’t you been hearing for years that email newsletters are dinosaurs? That was before Facebook got greedy and suppressed organic post reach to around 1%. Social media site algorithms determine how many of your fans actually get to see your posts, but you own your mailing list. Facebook’s recent moves have sent everyone scrambling back to building their newsletter lists. And as fans realize that they aren’t hearing from the authors they signed up to hear from on social media, well-done newsletters are gaining popularity.

A few key notes—don’t spam your readers. Send out at most once a month, maybe less, and make it worth their time or people will ignore you or unsubscribe. Offer trivia questions, contests, etc. to keep it fun. Build your list with Rafflecopter contests and by doing drawings at conventions and book signings when guests put their email info into a fishbowl and you pick the winner.

No. 3—Social media. Hey, didn’t I just say social media isn’t delivering the results it used to?  Yep. But it’s still the best way to reach a global audience for free, and it’s still a good channel to update your fans on what’s going on and coming up—it’s just not as great a channel as it used to be. At a minimum, you need to have a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account. Beyond that, I’d suggest Goodreads, Wattpad, Pinterest as core sites. Add YouTube if you’re into video, and consider Tumblr or Instagram if your audience skews young and female.

No. 4—Blog.  This could be part of your main website, or you could have a separate blog. If you can create a blog with a handful of other dedicated authors in a similar genre (so your audiences are likely to overlap), that can make it easier to keep up a steady pace of blog posts. The more regularly you blog, the more readers you’ll get. What to talk about? I recommend staying away from hot-button controversies (since 50% of your readers are likely to disagree but you still want them to like you), but otherwise, muse about life, talk about cooking, or vacation, or your cat/dog, upcoming book events, how the book is going, etc.

No. 5—Get out and meet people. Go to genre conventions and meet readers and other authors. Do book signings and get to know the local bookstore managers and staff. Go to book clubs and library events and Meetup gatherings. Be personable and polite, don’t try to hard sell, just get to know people and let them get to know you. Relationships matter!

Remember that you want to win readers for life, not just for one book, so while marketing takes effort, time and some cash, it’s a long-term investment–and it’s more important than ever in today’s publishing environment.

***

Print

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/2015/10/22/days-of-the-dead-blog-tour-tricks-treats-and-scary-good-stuff/

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! Grab your envelope of book swag awesomeness from me & 10 authors http://on.fb.me/1h4rIIe before 11/1!

Trick or Treat! Excerpt from my new urban fantasy novel Vendetta set in my Deadly Curiosities world here http://bit.ly/1ZXCPVS Launches Dec. 29

DEADLY CURIOSITIES-VENDETTA

More Treats! Enter to win a copy of Deadly Curiosities! https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/160181-deadly-curiosities

Treats! Enter to win a copy of Iron & Blood! https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/160182-iron-blood

I&B final cover

No Tricks! Here’s an excerpt from my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventure Raiders Curse http://bit.ly/12s119H

Halloween goodies! 2 FREE complete haunted novellas! The Final Death, set in my Deadly Curiosities world http://w.tt/1jsKqLL & Grave Voices http://w.tt/1kapSrn set in our Iron & Blood world

More Halloween loot! An excerpt from John Hartness’s Bubba The Monster Hunter series, Hall & Goats – http://bit.ly/1Lok7PC

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Massive thanks to Gail for the opportunity to host her here once again, and for the excellent guest post. :) Remember to check out the entire blog tour for all the goodies! :)

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2015 in Blog Tour, Guest Post

 

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Film Review: Crimson Peak

I don’t think I have ever been this excited to see a ‘horror’ movie before and man was it a disappointment.

*WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD*

crimson

Judging by the trailer, this film was going to be a campy, Gothic horror-fest complete with a haunted house on the bleak British moors and buckets of faux-blood. Actually, I was most excited for this film because it didn’t look all that terrifying (I’m a total wimp when it comes to horror) but looked more Gothic and grotesque, which I adore! So, off to the cinema I went.

Firstly, I remember now why I stopped going to the cinema and would rather wait for films to come out on DVD/streaming-sites. The inconsiderate asses behind me talked non-stop and even took photos of their popcorn (I just can’t even!!) with flash during the freaking movie!! My irritation at the selfish imbeciles behind me no doubt eroded some of the pleasure I might’ve derived from the film.

That said, it took almost an hour’s worth of two-hour run time to even get to the titular Crimson Peak! I thought the entire film was set in this rotting estate replete with bleeding walls, but nope, first we had to endure a bunch of back-story and long-winded set-up. By the time we got to the blood-soaked house, I was almost bored despite the charming good-looks and distinguished awesomeness that is Tom Hiddleston when he plays aristocratic British characters.

Now the house itself was spectacular and well-worth the wait, but what I thought was blood from the trailer was in fact red clay and iron ore leaching into the ground and turning it red – somewhat anti-climactic. And the horror of the house, combined with the appropriately unexpected frights courtesy of ghosts so grotesque they were more humorous than frightening, was pretty much all this film had going for it. I expected a lot from the story. I expected the house to be more, I actually expected it to be sentient. I expected the siblings to have a lot more going on in their past than an almost justified murder of a cruel mother and illicit love affair. Siblings falling in love is no longer as shocking as it used to be. Blame the Lannisters maybe, but this revelation wasn’t a revelation at all and the sort-of love scene between Tom and Lucille was barely a love scene at all, so the whole thing just fell flat for me. The only part of this story that horrified me was that Lucille murdered their mother at 14 when the mother found out her children were lovers. When Lucille was 14, her brother was 12. And they were lovers. People, THAT’S the true horror story!

Despite the underwhelming plot and predictability of the scares, the acting was on point for this penny dreadful-esque story and the cinematography was spectacular. Seriously, I would watch this film again (the second half) just to ogle the scenery and that delightfully dilapidated house.

Perhaps I went into this with my expectations far too high. I may or may not have confused Guillermo del Toro with Terry Gilliam, and when you go into a film thinking Brazil and Tideland only to be met with the guy who did Pacific Rim, well, it was my own fault really. That said, it was still reasonably enjoyable, although I don’t think this will give horror fans the frights they want, and won’t be nearly sinister enough to satisfy Gothic fiction lovers. Basically, Crimson Peak is little more than a flirtation with the macabre that’ll keep yours eyes entertained while you chew on popcorn. A disappointing 2.5/5 ink splats for this.

2.5 inksplats

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2015 in Reviews, Video Reviews

 

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Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes

I heard a lot of buzz about this book, particularly noted for its diversity and fresh setting. I couldn’t wait to read it, but when I did, I was left a little shocked to be honest.

*Spoilers ahead – you’ve been warned!*

ember

Laia is a slave.

Elias is a soldier.

Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

This book is YA, meaning it’s technically for teen readers about teen characters doing teenish things and dealing with teenish issues even in fantastical settings. And it was with that understanding that I cracked open the spine on this novel.

While I did thoroughly enjoy the Spartacus TV series (back when Andy Whitfield was the lead) and can generally handle the violence and brutality in shows like Game of Thrones, I was absolutely not prepared for the brutality of one of the very first scenes in this book. Remember this novel is aimed at teen readers… and yet, in one of the opening scenes introducing readers to Elias and his life at Blackcliff (much like the ludus in Spartacus only for kids as young as 5) a ten-year-old boy is publicly flogged to death by a commanding officer. I struggled with this scene. Even more so because the vast majority of the characters in the story seem so unaffected by the brutal abuse (actually, it goes beyond abuse really) of a child. A child! I should’ve known from this opening scene that the rest of the book would continue in a similar vein.

This book is brutal! The CO of this elite warrior school is an unapologetic sadist delighting in the continuous and brutal torture of slaves and Martials (the upper echelon attending the warrior school), even tormenting her own son! The brutality visited upon Laia is unspeakable and had me cringing for the majority of the book. If this were a movie, it would have to be R-rated for violence. But it gets worse, because the physical damage done by a sadist isn’t nearly as bad as the psychological torment Elias endures as part of the trope-ish three trials he is meant to pass in the hopes of becoming Emperor. The violence and brutality kicks up yet another gear to the point where I actually felt queasy reading some scenes and had to put the book down. I was so overwhelmed by the brutality, which often felt unnecessary and senseless, that when the few tender moments did happen, I was so relieved, I felt myself falling in love with these characters for the most minor of niceties.

Aside from the brutality – which I really shudder to think is considered okay for inclusion in a book aimed at young readers – the plot is complex and kept me intrigued. The main characters you couldn’t help but feel for given their circumstances and heinous mistreatment. I loved Elias and Laia although I could’ve done without all the convoluted love-quadrangling going on.

The biggest issue I had with this book was the constant threat of sexual violence against the girls in the story and the numerous near-rape scenes. Had there been at least one threat of sexual violence toward a boy (completely realistic) it would’ve perhaps felt more balanced, but as it stands, it seemed to be a stereotypical ‘boy taking what he thinks he can get without consequences from the weak and frightened girl’. Even the strongest female character in the book wasn’t immune to rape threats and that infuriated me! Why is rape always used!?

Had this book being marketed as adult or even new adult, I probably would’ve enjoyed it more or at least handled it a little better because I would’ve known to expect a different level of violence. There are several books with big cross-over appeal being marketed toward a more adult audience, books like Six of Crows and A Court of Thorns and Roses, and I think An Ember in the Ashes should’ve been marketed similarly. I was left emotionally damaged after reading this book and had nightmarish images of dead children playing in my mind for days after I turned the last page. Even as an adult book, I think this story will upset some readers with the amount of violence leveled at children. Did I mention a five-year-old little girl gets deliberately blinded with a hot poker as retribution for something an adult slave did? Yeah. Nauseating.

So, good plot, good characters, good prose if not very descriptive, and an interesting world with a slightly Arabic or Middle Eastern flavor featuring a cast of PoC characters, but it wasn’t quite as diverse as I was hoping. I kept waiting for an LGBT+ character to make an appearance but sadly, they never did. I find it really difficult to rate this book. I was intrigued, I kept turning pages – when I wasn’t battling nausea – and I did sort of enjoy it, but the brutality was simply too much for me. This gets 3.5/5 ink splats from me.3.5 inksplats

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2015 in Reviews, Uncategorized

 

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