Thursday, 22 December 2011

Michael Sullivan on Basing Characters on Real Life People || Author Guest Post



Michael Sullivan on 
Basing Characters on Real Life People 

Hello, my name is Michael J. Sullivan and I’m the author of The Riyria Revelations which was originally a six-book epic fantasy that is just now hitting the street as a trilogy (2 books in each volume) from Orbit. As part of the launch of the series, Fantasist as graciously offered me the opportunity for a guest blog, so here I am.
In coming up with the topic I thought about questions that pop up frequently in emails or when I’m meeting with people at a convention or signing. On many occasions I’ve been asked where I get my ideas for characters.

I know that everyone reads for different reasons, but for me I primarily read (and write) to be entertained. I find that I enjoy books most when I fall in love with the characters. So it is there that I always start.
The two main protagonists are Royce and Hadrian. Hadrian is a conflicted man going through somewhat of a mid-life crisis. He makes his living by operating on the fringes of society, performing tasks that nobles don’t want to dirty their hands with, but he’s not pleased with what he is often asked to do. He provides the conscience to his partner, Royce Melborn.  To say Royce has had a hard life would be an understatement. He was abandoned as a child, grew up on the “mean streets” of Ratibor, betrayed by those he trusted, and ended up losing his best friend by committing an unspeakable act (that as it turns out really wasn’t his fault). Now obviously I don’t know anyone that fits the description of these two characters, but I do find myself channeling them from time to time.  Hadrian shares my dreams of achieving some great deed, of being a hero, saving the kingdom, and winning the girl. As for Royce, he is extremely loyal and protective of the ones he loves. When my kids or wife are dealing with “difficult people” I can feel Royce bubbling to the surface. “Do you want me to speak with them?”  I ask. The answer is always a resounding, “No,” probably because they know all too well how it would go.

As for women, the three main characters of the series are Arista, Thrace, and Gwen. I see my wife in each of them.  Arista is capable and yet sometimes doubts her own abilities. She worries about whether she will ultimately triumph over whatever challenge she is currently going up against. Gwen, because she is open, honest, and loves Royce—not despite his rough exterior, but because she can see his true self. He tries to hide but she sees through it. She loves him for what he is—without any reservations. As for Thrace, I can’t go into why she is like Robin, as it would spoil a major plot point. Let’s just say she goes through a lot of changes over the course of the series and I really like seeing the transitions she goes through.
So there you have it. I might be a bit more like Royce then I let on as it is evident as I look back at this that we are both thieves. I’ve stolen inspiration from myself and my wife, and he…well he steals everything else (and sometimes the show). I want to once again thank Fantasist for inviting me over to chat…the coffee and crumb cake was great, and I didn’t even make a mess.

Theft of Swords by Michael J.Sullivan || Book Review


Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles—until they are hired to pilfer a famed sword. What appears to be just a simple job finds them framed for the murder of the king and trapped in a conspiracy that uncovers a plot far greater than the mere overthrow of a tiny kingdom.

Can a self-serving thief and an idealistic swordsman survive long enough to unravel the first part of an ancient mystery that has toppled kings and destroyed empires in order to keep a secret too terrible for the world to know?

And so begins the first tale of treachery and adventure, sword fighting and magic, myth and legend.


Introduction:  I have known about this series for a time now because of Fantasy Book Critic i.e.Liviu’s excellent reviews of the books, and had been planning on reading the books. So when the author’s publicist sent us a review copy, Theft of Swords jumped to the top of my reading list. Theft of Swords published by Orbit Books is actually an omnibus consisting of two novels (The Crown Conspiracy &Avempartha) previously published separately by indie publisher,Aspirations Media Inc. The books are written to work as standalone volumes but have an overall broader storyline which losely joins them together to form a series called The Riyria Revelations.

Analysis: Theft of Swords is traditional fantasy in the sense that it uses many of the familiar tropes such character archetypes i.e. elves, dwarves, goblins and men; a medieval era type setting etc. But the author tries enough new things so that the plot remains fresh and engaging. First the pacing of the novel is very unlike most fantasy novels I’ve read. Events move so quickly in the first half of the novel that at first I found myself a little disconcerted, being used to lots of details relating to world building and character development. The first part doesn’t even try to do any of these things it just introduces the characters: Hadrian and Royce (who are likable from the very start) and a few others and the roller coaster ride of adventure and action begins.
Hadrian and Royce collectively called Riyria are hired on a job to steal a sword from the Royal Palace, the King is murdered and the thieves framed. So begins an adventure that takes them across the kingdom and into an ancient Prison maintained by the Church wherein lies captive the only sorcerer known to be living and considered to be extremely dangerous. This sorcerer known as Esrahaddon is also a very intriguing character but his role is larger in Avempartha than in The Crown Conspiracy.  This fast paced action adventure driven storyline makes the first part a page turner and very enjoyable but it does have its setbacks. For one the world and the characters suffer from depth issues and the rich history alluded to is not explored. But to be just one must also consider the small page count of ‘The Crown Conspiracy’. The author probably intended to focus on the action and adventure in the first novel and leave the details for the second.

The second novel allayed my fears by doing exactly this. The starting act of the novel reveals some bombastic information about Royce’s character and throughout the novel much of the World’s history is revealed through a number of interesting POVs including Esrahaddon’s. The villainous dwarf Magnus and his obsession with Royce’s dagger is a fine addition. The church troubled by Esrahaddon’s escape escalates its plans for finding the Emperor. Our heroes find themselves on a monster hunting expedition in the unlikeliest of places. Some very interesting facts about the elves are revealed which increases the potential of the series. The author does a very good job at adding depth to the series in this novel but what is extraordinary is that the pace remains steady and the plot flowing throughout. Because of the second book the main characters rose from interesting but almost unknown to ultimate badass. The death of one of the major characters was unexpected and shows that the author is not shy about taking harsh decisions.  Mr. Sullivan slowed his pacing slightly to do all this but the result was an overall rise in writing quality and a truly epic feeling.

 Conclusion: Overall, Theft of Swords is an excellent book it is extremely fast paced and a very quick and entertaining read. The characters, world and storyline it develops are one of the best created in fantasy literature and from here on it can only get better.


Thursday, 15 December 2011

Prince of Thorns By Mark Lawrence || Book Review

"Before the thorns taught me their sharp lessons and bled weakness from me I had but one brother, and I loved him well. But those days are gone and what is left of them lies in my mother's tomb. Now I have many brothers, quick with knife and sword, and as evil as you please. We ride this broken empire and loot its corpse. They say these are violent times, the end of days when the dead roam and monsters haunt the night. All that's true enough, but there's something worse out there, in the dark. Much worse." 

Once a privileged royal child, raised by a loving mother, Jorg Ancrath has become the Prince of Thorns, a charming, immoral boy leading a grim band of outlaws in a series of raids and atrocities. The world is in chaos: violence is rife, nightmares everywhere. Jorg's bleak past has set him beyond fear of any man, living or dead, but there is still one thing that puts a chill in him. Returning to his father's castle Jorg must confront horrors from his childhood and carve himself a future with all hands turned against him. 

Prince of Thorns is the first volume in a powerful new epic fantasy trilogy, original, absorbing and challenging. Mark Lawrence’s debut novel tells a tale of blood and treachery, magic and brotherhood and paints a compelling and brutal, sometimes beautiful, picture of an exceptional boy on his journey toward manhood and the throne.


Introduction: Prince of Thorns is the first book in The Broken Empire series, it is a debut by British author Mark Lawrence. The book has been hailed as one of the finest debuts of this year. It is revenge driven epic fantasy, and has a rather brutal and gritty atmosphere.

Analysis:  Prince of thorns focuses on the central character Prince Honorous Jorg whose life has been shaped by the murder of his family and his need for vengeance. Jorg is the heir to one of a number of realms the rulers of which all have a claim to the title of Emperor of the Broken empire(since the series name The Broken Empire). The struggle between the numerous players for the title of Emperor forms the broader story arc.  Jorg will do whatever it takes to get this revenge, he will lie, cheat, steal, murder and betray anyone and everyone as long as it gets him closer to his goal. At barely ten years of age he intentionally falls in with a very nasty breed of criminals and so begins his long road to vengeance.  The writing in the first person POV of Jorg really brings out Jorg's character and the motivations behind his actions. Some people may find the brutality and viciousness of this character odd or unsettling for a kid of merely 10 years of age but I think the author does a very good job at the characterization.

“You soon learn there’s no elegance or dignity in death if you spend time in the castle kitchens. You learn how ugly it is, and how good it tastes.”
 For a person whose whole life revolves around the gruesome murder of his loved ones, his sociopathic and murderous qualities are perhaps justified. Also the author succeeds in making the reader question whether Jorg with his desire for murderous repayment for the death of his loved ones is truly the evil one or others who coldly trade away their deaths are more deserving of being called so.
“War, my friends, is a thing of beauty. Those as says otherwise are losing.”
 Jorg's companions are a particularly nasty outlaw group. I found myself especially enjoying the tid-bits the author added as introductions to a few of Jorg's roadside companions, these provided some added insights into the cuthroat nature of Jorgs companions and how the savageness required to survive, shaped Jorg's personality.

“Brother Roddat stabbed three men in the back for each one he faced. Roddat taught me all I know about running and about hiding. Cowards should be treated with respect. Cowards best know how to hurt. Corner one at your peril.”


“Every brotherhood has a pecking order. With brothers like mine you don’t want to be at the bottom of that order. You’re liable to get pecked to death. Brother Jobe had just the right mix of whipped cur and rabies to stay alive there.”


“Assassination is just murder with a touch more precision. Brother Sim is precise.”


The secondary characters do not receive too much character development aside from these occasional bits, and it really is a shame since a number of them are interesting, likable and badass. I was especially disappointed by the author’s treatment of the Nuban, the enigmatic tribal warrior could have been fleshed out and developed so much more. Makin, Jorg’s champion is arguably the only other character who received a bit of real attention so readers can have some understanding of his personality. But given the breakneck speed and continuous action one can really forget these lapses and enjoy the ride.

Prince of thorns covers a lot of events and places in a rather small page count. This does not allow the author to delve too deep into the world building. There are references that give us an indication of the rich history behind the world as it stands in the present, but overall it covers a rather small portion of the World, the author has created for this series. The world from what little has been revealed is post apocalyptic, it is a time when humanity is thrust back development wise after some major catastrophe ended a much superior and technologically advanced civilization. In the present the world could be described as medieval era with some structures and other remnants from the technological age. The appearance of references to Plato, Socrates, Nietzche, Sun tzu, Shakespeare, and even Jesus made for an interesting and original addition, since many fantasy novelists refrain from mentioning people an events from the real world.

Prince of thorns is not a very large book and what it lacks for in size it makes up for in pace, the pages whirl past while reading. The book is packed with action and suspense,the atmosphere created in the novel is suitably grim and for the first three quarters the novel was one of the most engaging I've ever read. The author writing in fluid and flowing prose takes the reader into the darkest recesses of the human mind which is a disturbing yet entertaining journey.  The sword and sorcery type action was vivid and non-stop, and the hero although a tad on the evil side was one I rooted for.

But I had a number of problems with the last quarter of the novel. Although these problems didn’t quite cripple my enjoyment of Prince of Thorns but did cut down on the immense potential and expectations I had developed for the book.  Firstly, the author seemed to be in a hurry to get to the finish line as if he was getting out of pages to write on. The last quarter could have achieved so much more and been so much more meaningful had it been fully developed and taken up the necessary space to achieve this. Second, his use of timely good-luck to bail Jorg out of impossible situations in quick succession really agitated me, since it made things appear contrived, contrary to how believable things were before. There really could have been so many other more entertaining/roundabout ways of dealing with those situations.

Conclusion: Even though there are number of flaws one can pick out from the last quarter of Prince of Thorns, the fact remains that it is a very enjoyable book and one of the year’s better debuts. The flaws felt more pronounced because of the immense expectations it developed earlier, this by itself is an indication of the author’s talent and potential for the future. It will certainly be interesting to see where Mr. Lawrence takes this series in future installments.


Saturday, 10 December 2011

Returning After a Period of silence || What's Up

Well, we've been really busy, with exams and a whole lot of other not so entertaining stuff going on. But the important thing is, we're back to blogging with a new zealous feel coursing through. I've been reading and have a couple of reviews planned, coming up soon.



I finished reading Theft of Swords, our first review copy granted by the author's publicist. I wasn't quite convinced by the first part, however, the excellent second part won me over and possessed the "wow factor" that makes reading fantasy such a pleasure.  I am already hungering for the second book, Rise of Empire. I planned on reading and posting a review of Theft of Swords by the end of November, but with the busy schedule and all... Anyway, enough excuses, the review will be going up on December 22.





Also, I've been going head to head with Prince of Thorns and damn would I not want to go head to head with its fourteen year old,  homicidal maniac of a protagonist. Seriously, its some really grim and sinister stuff but I am enjoying it, somehow I am feeling a bit mischievous myself these days, so its right up my alley.   The review will be coming up soon, probably before that for Theft of Swords.







And there's Skyrim. The game I've been waiting for all year. I must admit I am a bit in love, certainly addicted. This one has been eating away at any spare moments I might have had for other activities including reading and blogging. This game is just so HUGE, I have invested a whole load of (massively entertaining) hours into this, but have hardly gone through a third of the game. Maybe even less. Even now, trying to stay away from the game is physically painful. Perhaps that's what it means to be going through withdrawal. Anyway, this marvel, deserves a  a bit of writing space on the blog, with my views in greater detail.  But it'll probably take some more time for me  to get through the whole game, and I want to experience it all before I put it down in words. 

Monday, 21 November 2011

Circle of Magic by Tamora Pierce || Some Thoughts (By Amna)


This series comprises of “Sandry’s Book”, “Tris’s Book”, ”Daja’s Book” and “Briar’s Book”.
Quite some time before actually reading the books I caught a glimpse of the first 3 pages from Elvenarya’s bookshelf. The start seemed good so I got it and started reading it.

Sandry’s Book
The story started out fine but after reading about half of it I realized it was getting nowhere. It was just a happy little life story of 4 bratty kids and a dog . I kept waiting for something anywhere near interesting to happen, but in vain. The book refused to hand over anything even mildly enjoyable. I totally hated everything in the book from the teachers to the trainees, the bratty kids to the bratty dog and especially all the unnecessary details. As expected, I found myself skipping pages……not being a long book skipping all the boring things (which unfortunately made up most of the book) meant that I finished it far earlier than expected. My reaction throughout reading and after the book was one of boredom. It was only near the end that something happened in a plot that crawled at a snail’s pace all through the novel.
Nevertheless the author has written many good books so I decided to give the second book a shot. Also I had heard that it was the best of the series so I thought I’d give the author another chance.

Tris’s Book
 ‘Tris’s Book ’ was far superior to the first one, the plot pacing was better, there was more depth added to the characters. I liked the author’s writing style and her vivid descriptions, but these descriptions are a double edged sword when her pacing slows down it starts to weigh down the writing. Unfortunately this one suffered from the middle book syndrome of building up on characters and world building from the first novel at the cost of plot flow and so eventually the pacing got bogged down. In my opinion the books major weakness is the absence of any significant plot developments or events. I agree that the four characters along with their teachers did lots of activities depending on their powers but it amounted little in the overall scheme of things.  It failed to pull me in and lacked that special factor that makes one just fall in love with the pages. Being underwhelmed by the second book I have dropped the series. But since I do like her style of writing, I may just pick up another one of her series sometime in the future. 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Son of Neptune || Book Review (Reviewed by Elvenarya)




Finally percy is back!! It was with much anticipation that I awaited the sequel to " The Lost Hero".  Riorden's sense of humour -which the first book, so clearly lacked- makes a banging appearance right from the first paragraph, accompanying greek-hero class action. It was clear that Percy hadn't had as major a memory loss as Jason and we join him once he has been trained by Lupa - the she-wolf Roman patron- after slumbering for months. he gets tricked by Juno into giving up his Achilles curse entering the Roman Camp Jupiter where he is distrusted, held in contempt and for some resason hated by their leader. It does not help that he's a son of Neptune and has managed to befriend the two ultimate losers in camp: Frank and Hazel both of whom guard deadly secrets.

I sorely missed the highly enjoyable first person pov as in the Percy Jackson series and the lack of a prophecy, without which no quest is complete. But then giving a first peron pov of Percy would have made it difficult to put in Hazel and Frank's points of view which were essential to the storyline. And since the Roman way of deriving prophecies doesnt work (maybe because it was the sacrifice of ENTRAILS OF STUFFED ANIMALS :D ) there are no prophecies in Camp Jupiter. Except of-course the Prophecy of Seven.

Gaea is the enemy, far more calculating and deceptive than Kronos. She leaves little room for maneuvering and the heroes constantly have to face enemies they never imagined they could have. Her gloats that Percy will end up serving her cause makes one really fear for the heroes future for with Gaea, there are no idle threats.

This book is one of the best Riorden penned and is a must read for his fans. This book is definately darker than its predecessors. Humour is definately there but then so is the seriousness of the situation, proving that Riorden has greatly improved as an author, for in the Percy Jackson series the danger never seemd so great. More action, more story and more complexity to the characters makes this book rise to five stars. I absolutely loved it from the Roman demi-god lifestyle to the mystery of the Lares. Octavian creeped me out while Hazel gained my sympathy. There were more battles with great details which had me double minded about the outcomes because in this book there is too little that can be predicted.Sometimes I rolled over laughing while at others I was biting my nails in suspense. Overall it is a great read that left me craving for more but at the same time completely satisfied with what I had got.

My Rating: 9/10.

Buy the book from:
Amazon.com || Amazon.co.uk
Book Depository || Indiebound

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood || Game Review

         Game Info:
        Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Genre: Historic Action Adventure
Release: Mar 22, 2011 
ESRB: Mature

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is the third game in the series; the setting is renaissance period Rome. Our Protagonist is basically a modern day man named Desmond who is able to access his ancestor Ezio’s memories through a machine called the animus. The storyline in the present is a little vague with a group of four (one of whom is Desmond) trying to evade Templar enemies, all the while trying to find out the location of a certain artifact called the ‘Apple’. Anyway, the game is mostly based in Renaissance Rome so it’s not much of a concern. The main arc follows Ezio’s enmity with the Borgia Family who are the most influential and powerful people in all of Rome.


The game looks very slick and sharp all around and the since the game is third person based so the camera is a very significant part of the game. Fortunately unlike many other games which suffer from bad camera issues, Brotherhood’s camera works very smoothly throughout. The city of Rome is shown in all its grandeur and the visuals provide a very immersive and satisfying experience.


Brotherhood is a very addictive and entertaining game and to enjoy it to its fullest one must enjoy the little things. You can decide to disregard everything other than the main story arc but this will deprive you of the truly immersive experience you’re likely to get from partaking in the side stuff. There’s a lot to do in the city of Roma. From collecting treasures, completing shop quests (to unlock prized items), robbing robbers, bribing heralds, renovating shops and other landmarks for income,  building faction buildings, destroying Leonardo di Vinci’s war machines (at his own request!), building a brotherhood of Assassins,  to following Ezio’s and his love interest Katarina’s relationship in the past. 
Hiring of Assassins is a new feature in Brotherhood. Brotherhood Assassin’s can then be called on for assistance in fights, to dispatch enemies you’re too lazy to kill yourself. They can be sent on foreign missions to increase skills and assassin levels or to gain rare treasure items which are useful for unlocking new kinds of weapons.  
The weapons menu is very user friendly, one can easily and quickly shift between weapons and take medicine (when health is low) with no tedious steps involved in the whole process. The Assassin does a number of wicked moves and performs executions with flamboyance and flair which are very pleasing to the eye. I found the ranged weapons to be the most useful for killing off enemies quickly and with great finesse. Among the crossbow, the pistol, throwing knives and the poison darts there’s a lot of variety to choose from. The poison darts were my favorites, just shoot an enemy with a dart and get away long before the poor guy dies and his dead body gives others a whiff of something going awry.


My only complaint was that the main story arc was too short and the ending was rather abrupt leaving the player’s hanging around in the middle with a desperate urge to know what happens next.
Overall the game was very enjoyable and will appeal to fans and newcomers alike. I recommend you get the game right away and spend some time kicking butt as a super cool, badass Asassin! As for me I can’t wait for the next instalment in the series i.e.Assassin’s Creed: Revelations…. 


Friday, 4 November 2011

Athena the Brain by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams || Short Review (Reviewed by Amna)



Blurb:
ATHENA HAS ALWAYS BEEN ABOVE AVERAGE. She's never quite fit in at Triton Junior High, but who would've guessed that Athena is actually a goddess? Principal Zeus's daughter, to be exact. When she's summoned to Mount Olympus Academy, Athena thinks she might actually fit in for the first time in her life. But in some ways, school on Mount Olympus is not that different from down on Earth, and Athena is going to have to deal with the baddest mean girl in history -- Medusa!

Introduction: Athena the Brain is the first book in the Goddess Girls which is 8 books long, I found it from goodreads recommendations and since I love Greek myths related material I just had to pick it up.

Plot Synopsis: Athena always knew she was different from all her friends in earth but she never guessed who she really was. Never knowing who her parents were she always lived with her best friend. Naturally she gets a huge shock when she receives a letter from the gods inviting her to Mount Olympus. Once there, she enters a totally different world with totally different people. She finds that the academy is not only for gods and goddesses but for talented mortals as well. Her immediate reaction is to try to figure out a way her friend (whose life’s dream is to visit Mount Olympus) can visit. Her friends are goddess’s such as Aphrodite and Artemis and not to mention mortals such as Pandora. Also she has a hate-hate relationship with Medusa.
This book gives simple yet interesting reasons for many of the Greek myths like the Trojan War and how Medusa gets her snake hair. The academy and the students are pretty much like a normal school with normal fights and all. The only problem is being gods and goddesses, their fights cause a lot more trouble than normal ones.

Conclusion: Overall the idea of this book is pretty good but the problem is that it is too simple and too short. I recommend it to children of ages 7-10. It can be an interesting bedtime story for them. I did not really dislike the book I just found it childish. Younger children will enjoy it much more than I did.

Buy the book from:
Amazon.com || Amazon.co.uk
Book Depository || Indiebound


Friday, 28 October 2011

Stuntsman dies on Set, Expendables 2 || News



According to recent news, A stuntman died and another was severely injured on the set of the expendables 2. The accident which claimed the life of the stuntman took place at 7p.m.when the movie's 2nd Unit Stunt Team was filming an explosion scene at reservoir Ognyanovo, 15 miles from Bulgaria's capital of Sofia.  
Our heartfelt condolences to friends and family.


Saturday, 22 October 2011

Perfect Shadow || Cover Art

(source: dribble of ink)

This was done by Raymond Swanland. All I can say is WOW! This is some really amazing artwork only if all fantasy books had covers like this little gem of a cover here.


Tuesday, 27 September 2011

TV Show Spotlight: Terra Nova


Terra Nova is perhaps this years most eagerly awaited show, contested by Game of Thrones for the year, but in the latter half of 2011 uncontested. Produced by Steven Spielberg and employing sets reminiscent of the Jurassic Park movies apart from actually featuring Dinosaurs, the show will appeal to a large audience.
The Pilot Episode "Genesis" Aired 26 September 2011, i.e yesterday.

Description:
Terra Nova, Centers on the Shannons, an ordinary family from 2149 when the planet is dying who are transported back 85 million years to prehistoric Earth where they join Terra Nova, a colony of humans with a second chance to build a civilization.


Trailer:

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Game Spotlight: Max Payne 3


Here's the trailer to the next installment in the highly awaited Max Payne franchise. The first two games were rather excellent and with the recent track record of Rockstar, I am expecting the coming game to be nothing short of spectacular.
On the other hand the trailer seems different from what I had in mind for the future of the series, bleak settings an all are Max Payne's style but a bald Payne that seems rather extreme... :)



Joe Abercrombie talks about Deus Ex: Human Revolution



According to Joe Abercrombie:

"Near future dsytopian cyberpunk gruff-voiced first person shooter stylings with an emphasis on stealth and lateral thinking.  Well, kinda.  As with the first Deus Ex which came out some years ago on the PC and is one of those there classics of the genre, in theory the game offers you all kinds of ways to play and you make the choice as to how you will approach it.  Invincible cyborg battering ram or ghost in the machine?  Computer whizzkid or martial artiste, the choice is yours.  Well, kinda.

I like it, in general, certainly I played it all the way through.  On the upside the worldbuilding is very nice, the general look is great, and it makes a decent fist of working on several different levels – as a stealth-em-up a la Thief, as a cover-based first person shooter, as a game of exploration and thinking your way through problems....."

Read the rest here.

And here's the trailer if you haven't seen it already.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Animation Spotlight: Batman Year One

MPAA Rating: PG-13
Publisher: Warner Home Video
Genre: Super-Hero
Disc Format: DVD
Release Date:  US: October 18, 2011



Batman Year One is based on Frank Miller's Graphic novel of the same name, and will be about Batman's Origins. Although Batman's Origins is not something at all new in the comics universe, still it will be an interesting watch. Judging from  DC animations in the past two years this one shouldn't disappoint. I have been following these new animations rather religiously and particularly enjoyed: Batman: Under the Red Hood, Superman/ Batman Apocalypse, Green Lantern: First Flight, Justice League Crisis on two Earths.
Do check them out if you have even a passing interest in DC comics.


  

Andy Whitfield, of Spartacus:Blood and Sand, Dies at the age of 39 || News


Andy Whitfield who was the lead actor in the hit Starz show Soartacus: Blood and Sand has died at he age of 39, in his home country Australia. Andy had been diagnosed of  non-Hodgkins lymphoma,  about 18 months ago. In January he was replaced as the lead actor by Liam McIntyre. 
According to his wife Whitfield died on a sunny morning in the arms of his loving wife. Our hearfelt condolences go out to his family. He will live on in the cherished memories of his family, friends and fans. Rest in peace, Andy.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

A Memory of Light || News


According to a recent twitter post from Brandon Sanderson, he is nearly 52% through with writing the final book in the Wheel of Time. The book is supposed to be published sometime in the latter half of 2012. 

Thanks to Adam of The Wertzone for this bit of news. Adam is usually one of the first to pick up on SF&F news from around the web, and runs a spectacular blog, one of the very best in my opinion, do check it out.

Orb, Sceptre, Throne by Ian C. Esslemont || Cover Art

                                                                  (from The Wertzone)

Orb, Sceptre, Throne is the fourth book in the 'Novels of the Malazan Empire' series by the author and will take place in the city of Darujhistan.

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1) By Rick Riordan (Reviewed by Amna) || Book Review


Blurb:
After getting expelled from yet another school for yet another clash with mythological monsters only he can see, twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is taken to Camp Half-Blood, where he finally learns the truth about his unique abilities: He is a demigod, half human, half immortal. Even more stunning: His father is the Greek god Poseidon, ruler of the sea, making Percy one of the most powerful demigods alive. There's little time to process this news. All too soon, a cryptic prophecy from the Oracle sends Percy on his first quest, a mission to the Underworld to prevent a war among the gods of Olympus.
This first installment of Rick Riordan's best-selling series is a non-stop thrill-ride and a classic of mythic proportions.

Introduction: I first heard of this book when I saw the trailer of the Lightning Thief. Frankly I was totally disgusted by the whole thing. If anyone had asked me then whether I'd like to read the book my response would have been "ew!!!". It was quite some time later when my sister recommended this book to me that i took any interest in actually reading it. At first I just kept it in a dusty corner not meaning to read it at all. However one day when I was totally bored and had nothing to read I finally picked it up and started to read. My response after finishing it was-"ITS AWESOME!!!!!!"
Analysis: This book is a must-read for anyone who enjoys fictional books no matter what age. Rick Riorden grabs the age old Greek Mythology tales and sets it into a totally different background- the 21st century (for e.g Mount Olumpus is in the Empire State Building and the Underworld in Los Angelas). In the meantime children of Greek gods and mortals are being hunted down by monsters .The only safe place left for them is Camp Half-Blood but they don't always make it there.

12 year old Percy Jackson has always had a hard time settling in schools (which has resulted in him getting expelled from quite a few) . However when he vapourizes his teacher , well lets just say that it capped all his previous mis-adventures. Then Percy finds out that he is as far from normal as possible for he is a demigod.
After a great sacrifice (read the book and find out yourself what the sacrifice was) he manages to reach the only place where he can be safe -Camp Half-Blood. Just when he had finnaly started getting adjusted in this 'new' life (which was hard enough) Percy finds that Zeus the chief Olympian has blamed Percy and his Olympian parent for stealing his Lightning Bolt. Unless Percy , along with his friends Annabeth and Grover can find the bolt and bring it back to Zeus before the Summer Solstice (which is 10 days away ) the gods will be at war with Earth as a battle-field.
This book will apeal to any fan of fantasy-fiction no matter what age.I really loved this book, you simply cannot put it down. This book will grip you harder than Zeus could if he caught you running off with his pants (no idea where that came from) . The occasional humor and cutting remarks from the three friends puts a smile on your face. As for the story line well its simply great. The excitement and suspense mounts specially when the trio get into seemingly unescapable
situations. All the characters are well-developed. The story goes at a perfect pace - not too fast and not too slow. 

Conclusion: Overall this book is simply amazing. The writer has put great effort in developing the story as well as the characters. It is a must-read for every-one. I especially recommend it to fans of the book 'Alchemyst' by Michael Scott because in that series the author has also modernized the myths. However Percy Jackson is funnier. 

Monday, 5 September 2011

Book Spotlight: The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe


Publisher: Tor Books
length: 304 pages.
Release Date: September 27, 2011

Blurb:
No one knows where the Tufa came from, or how they ended up in the mountains of East Tennessee. When the first Europeans came to the Smoky Mountains, the Tufa were already there. Dark-haired and enigmatic, they live quietly in the hills and valleys of Cloud County, their origins lost to history. But there are clues in their music, hidden in the songs they have passed down for generations. . . .

Private Bronwyn Hyatt, a true daughter of the Tufa, has returned from Iraq, wounded in body and spirit, but her troubles are far from over. Cryptic omens warn of impending tragedy, while a restless “haint” has followed her home from the war. Worse yet, Bronwyn has lost touch with herself and with the music that was once a part of her. With death stalking her family, will she ever again join in the song of her people, and let it lift her onto the night winds?

My thoughts: I was made aware of this one while perusing the blog: 'fantasy and sci-fi lovin news and reviews'. Up to now I had been aware of only the 'Eddie Lacrosse Mystery' series from Mr. Bledsoe, which is certainly one of the more original series' mixing fantasy and mystery tropes together. This one is certainly going to be very different than the Lacrosse books though; it will be interesting to see how well Mr Bledsoe can do with a more 'realistic' setting.

You can pre-order the book here:





Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The Heroes By Joe Abercrombie || Book Review



Blurb:
War: where the blood and dirt of the battlefield hide the dark deeds committed in the name of glory. THE HEROES is about violence and ambition, gruesome deaths and betrayals; and the brutal truth that no plan survives contact with the enemy. The characters are the stars, as ever, and the message is dark: when it comes to war, there are no heroes...
Meet THE HEROES.
Curnden Craw: a ruthless fighter who wants nothing more than to see his crew survive.
Prince Calder: a liar and a coward, he will regain his crown by any means necessary.
Bremer dan Gorst: a master swordsman, a failed bodyguard, his honor will be restored - in the blood of his enemies.
Over three days, their fates will be sealed.



Introduction: The Heroes is a standalone novel set in the world of the First Law Trilogy from Joe Abercrombie. Mr. Abercrombie although relatively new to the fantasy genre has become quite the phenomenon, by writing 'gritty' fantasy which is humorous, frequently sarcastic and cynical, occasionally sentimental, and always entertaining. I had been looking forward to The Heroes since reading his excellent short story 'The Fool Jobs', published in the Swords and Dark Magic Anthology, which introduces Curnden Craw and his crew.

Classification: The Heroes, is more military fiction set in an alternate world than anything you might expect from a fantasy novel. Readers would have come to expect a certain level of stark realism in the writing of Mr. Abercrombie but 'grit' in The Heroes far exceeds anything ever previously written by the author.

Analysis: The Heroes, finds the Union and the North-men once more at each others throats and details the blood-soaked, gore-splattered events of three days of battle. Although The Heroes is a standalone in the vein of 'Best Served Cold', it is a very different novel. 'Best Served Cold' had a full cast which was an incarnation of nasty, traitorous bloodthirsty and murderous scum; in The Heroes we actually have characters that do not embody all of the most hateful human characteristics possible into their individual personalities. On the contrary, we actually have a number of likable albeit flawed characters struggling to do the best they can in the worst of circumstances.

"Always do the right thing sounds an easy rule to stick to. But when's the right thing the wrong thing? That's the question."

Mr. Abercrombie's protagonists are Heroes by necessity and circumstance, as always. . He argues that heroes as we think of them are only to be found in songs and stories; that real men are not nearly so invincible or infallible. Also that the men are fickle, and dead heroes are generally soon forgotten, while new living ones take their place. He says courage and cowardice are products of circumstance and in the right circumstances a coward may just be capable of great feats of valor and heroes may run with their tale between their legs.

"When a man dies in peacetime it's all tears and processions, friends and neighbours offering each other comfort. A man dies in war and he's lucky to get enough mud on top to stop him stinking."

More than anything, The Heroes is about the horrors and futility of war. The author spends much time de-glorifying the whole business of war and fighting in general. According to him war is a game between politicians, with the soldiers as the pieces. He also discusses how war dispossesses many of even the most meager of possessions and elevates others beyond their highest hopes.

"wars were all about rich men's ambitions and poor men's graves"

Mr. Abercrombie thrusts the reader neck deep into battle in all its horrific, blood covered, filthy, and sweaty detail. Mr. Abercrombie spares the reader nothing; with limbs and all assortments of body parts flying around, there are no clean, heroic, glorious deaths.

"That's what war does. Strips people and places of their identities and turns them into enemies in a line, positions to be taken, resources to be foraged. Anonymous things that can be carelessly crushed, and stolen, and burned without guilt. War is hell, and all that. But full of opportunities."

The author refers to death just waiting around the corner not waiting or caring for our position, wealth or power; and how in battle courageous and skilled men can die while the most cowardly and idiotic men survive. The undeniable truth of our mortaility is a theme ever present.

"The Great Leveller's lying in wait for all of us, no doubt, and he takes no excuses and makes no exceptions."

Mr. Abercrombie writes with his characteristic wit and humor and sometimes the humor catches one off guard. He never takes himself too seriously; one instant he's setting up a scene involving a major confrontation between his two best warriors/heroes, getting the readers adrenaline flowing, the next he's writing something like this:

"A meeting of champions! All gritted teeth and clenched buttocks! All glorious lives, glorious deaths and glorious … glory?"

The Heroes is not fantasy in the traditional sense, with the author subverting many fantasy elements and completely leaving out others. Sometimes there's too much grit, enough to bother someone in the mood for a traditional fantasy novel. These, in my opinion, would be the only 'flaws'.

Conclusion: A witty writing style, plenty of plot twists, vivid action scenes and a cast of characters one can easily root for, makes The Heroes a winner on many levels and will keep you reading well into the night. The Heroes is easily Joe Abercrombie's best work to date and is a masterwork of military-fantasy fiction.

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Saturday, 27 August 2011

Geoffroy Thoorens || Art Work

                                                                  






You can find out more about the artist: Geoffroy Thoorens, and more previews of his excellent works here.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Legend by David Gemmell || Book Review



Blurb:
The Legend Druss, Captain of the Axe: the stories of his life were told everywhere. Instead of the wealth and fame he could have claimed, he had chosen a mountain lair, high in the lonely country bordering on the clouds. There the grizzled old warrior kept company with snow leopards and awaited his old enemy death. The Fortress Mighty Dros Delnoch, protected by six outer walls, the only route by which an army could pass through the mountains. It was the stronghold of the Drenai empire. And now it was the last battleground, for all else had fallen before the Nadir hordes. And hope rested on the skills of that one old man...


 

Introduction: David Gemmell is a name every fantasy enthusiast has heard of and many are intimately familiar with. Legend first published in 1984, was the best selling author's first novel in his famous Drenai Saga. Legend has the position of a classic in fantasy literature, and had been on my radar for some time. So when I found it lying on the shelves of my local old bookstore it was an instant buy and read.

Classification: Legend can be classified as heroic-military fantasy although the fantasy elements actually in it are few and it could just as easily have been historical fiction had Gemmell wanted it to be. At 345 pages it is a rather short novel, though what it lacks for in quantity is made up for in quality.

Analysis: The Dialogue and characterization are top notch, the prose lyrical, the action unflinching and there is no dearth of great lines. The plot is relatively simple, just like the blurb tells it, Dros Delnoch is a doomed Drenai fortress, which although strong architecturally lacks the manpower to be defended against the nearly endless numbers of Nadir warriors, united for the first time under a single King. Druss an old war veteran and hero of the Drenai brings hope and morale to the despondent defenders, he is not the only hero, there are other unlikely heroes amongst the Drenai who are no less important to the cause, yet all derive inspiration and strength from Druss.

Legend is a story of a lost cause and a hopeless last stand, of an empire in its twilight years, and of heroes who refuse to give in although defeat is certain and only a matter of time. It is about flawed heroes, each one with his or her own fears. Rek is a melancholy man who thinks himself a craven, Virae a woman bound by duty and honor but in her own way crippled; comfortable as a soldier but clumsy and uncomfortable as a woman. Even Druss has his fear of dying as a senile & lonely man.

Above all legend is a book about heroism, courage, honor and life. Gemmell points out that life is never more beautiful or dearer than when you look death in the eye. How it brings things into sharper focus, how it makes even the most despondent of men realize that they do wish to live after-all.

He talks about how puny humanity and its struggles seem when viewed from a historical or cosmic perspective. If hundreds of thousands of men die, so what they died before in ages past and the world moved on. If whole civilizations were to pass from existence, so what? Thousands such have been extinguished before the flames of time and other civilizations took their place. What is the meaning of man's struggles if all of his endeavours are destined to fade into obscurity? Gemmell asks the question of what is the purpose of struggle when the end is certain defeat, and answers that all men die but to continue in defiance inspite of assured defaeat is the mark of a man.

"And what is a man? He is someone who rises when life has knocked him down. He is someone who raises his fist to heaven when a storm has ruined his crop - and then plants again. And again. A man remains unbroken by the savage twists of fate. That man may never win. But when he sees himself reflected, he can be proud of what he sees. For low he may be in the scheme of things: peasant, serf, or dispossessed. But he is unconquerable."
"Each man has a breaking point, no matter how strong his spirit. Somewhere, deep inside him, there is a flaw that only the fickle cruelty of fate can find. A man's strength is ultimately born of his knowledge of his own weakness."

"That's what friends are all about - they are people with whom you can be silent."

Legend highlights the effects of strong and experienced leadership, how leaders inspire ordinary men to rise up and do deeds of heroism and wonder. Gemmell handles the notion of love and how it affects humanity. How cravens become heroes how tongue-tied buffoons become models of confidence and high stature.

"Live or die, a man and a woman need love. There is a need in the race. We need to share. To belong. Perhaps you will die before the year is out. But remember this: to have may be taken from you, to have had never. Far better to have tasted love before dying, than to die alone."

He discusses all these things and more but always well within the context of the plot, his thoughts add to the depth of his characters, and it never feels like he's dumping his thoughts onto the reader. There a no evil men in Gemmell's book only men at odds in their purpose, looking at things from opposite sides of a wall.

Legend although very well written isn't flawless and ironically its main flaws reside with its fantastical elements. The magic where little it is employed does not sit well with the overall feel of the novel and feels a bit forced, in my opinion the book would have done better without it. Nosta Khan who employs the magic for the most part is the least developed character and the ending is not nearly as great or believable as the rest of the novel.

Inspite of the problematic ending Legend remains an immensely satisfying novel. It is a last stand for the ages and while reading I was elated and ecstatic. The action filled pages held me in a fever grip and once I started reading I couldn't stop until I had finished it from cover to cover. It is a definite addition into my all-time favorites, and I highly recommend it to all fantasy aficionados.


 
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Friday, 19 August 2011

New Project from Joe Abercrombie gets a name || News


Joe Abercrombie is working on the first draft of a standalone novel that will be named 'The Red Country' or 'Red Country'. This one is going to be an amalgamation of fantasy and western elements set in the First Law World. The publication date is probably going to be around early summer 2012, says the author. Read more.

Monday, 15 August 2011

The Worlds Inside Us || Artwork


Self Portrait // Please tilt your head to the right(from the behance network)


Lion // Butterflies (from the behance network)

The Royal Pavilion in Brighton // Valerie 2(from the behance network)

Artist/Photographer: Dan Mountford.

You can view the complete album of double exposure portraits here. Also you can buy the printed portraits here.






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