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.






Roy Jones Jr Highlight || Humorous Boxing





My thoughts: Talk about an all out attacking mindset, this shortie knocks out guys by being completely insane in his attacks. Look at his opponents, they are completely taken by surprise, one guy just stumbles and falls backwards! Hilarious.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Superman: Man of Steel

Title: Superman: Man of Steel




This is the first still from Zack Snyder's version of Superman, coming out in 2013, casting Henry Cavill as Clark Kent.
Hopefully Snyder will do better with this than he did with Sucker Punch which was such a disappointment.





Game spotlight: Ryse

Title: Ryse





Developer: Crytek
Studio: Microsoft Game Studios
Genre: Action
Platform: Kinect


Description: Ryse  is a fully gesture-based first-person hack-and-slash game. Using Kinect, gamers must kick, stab and block using their body’s physical capabilities.

Enjoy the trailer, the action starts in the latter half of the trailer so don't be put off by the rather unimpressive start, watch the full trailer.








Thursday, 4 August 2011

Movie Spotlight: In Time


Title: In Time.


Director: Andrew Niccol.
Stars: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy.
Release Date: 28 October 2011(USA)


Plot:
In the not-too-distant future the aging gene has been switched off. To avoid overpopulation, time has become the currency and the way people pay for luxuries and necessities. The rich can live forever, while the rest try to negotiate for their immortality. A poor young man who comes into a fortune of time, though too late to help his mother from dying. He ends up on the run from a corrupt police force known as 'time keepers'.


My thoughts: Well the plot doesn't seem all that original but it may have the potential to be a Science fiction flick of modest entertainment value, any way enjoy the trailer. 


Trailer:





Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Animation Spotlight: Thundercats

The Thunder Cats are Reborn!

The Following is a trailer of the New TV series premiered 29th July 2011. The First Two episodes are out, and they're not bad at all!

Enjoy!

Trailer: Thundercats TV series 2011




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Upcoming Movies of interest

The Immortals
Trailer 1:

and Trailer 2:

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Trailer:



I am waiting for these two in earnest. There's just something about Greek Mythology that clicks with my sensibilities. Hopefully this one won't smash up my hopes like previous year's Clash of the Titans!
And Rise of the Planet of the Apes features James Franco I'll just about watch anything with him in it, plus it seems intriguing.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

A Dance with Dragons: By George R.R. Martin || Book Review



 

 
Blurb:
In the aftermath of a colossal battle, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance once again-beset by newly emerging threats from every direction. In the east, Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of House Targaryen, rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death. But Daenerys has three times three thousand enemies, and many have set out to find her. Yet, as they gather, one young man embarks upon his own quest for the queen, with an entirely different goal in mind. To the north lies the mammoth wall of ice and stone-a structure only as strong as those guarding it. There, Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, will face his greatest challenge yet. For he has powerful foes, not only within the Watch, but also beyond, in the land of the creatures of ice. And from all corners, bitter conflicts soon re-ignite, intimate betrayals are perpetrated, and a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves, will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Some will fail, others will grow in the strength of darkness. But in a time of rising restlessness, the tides of destiny and politics will lead inevitably to the greatest dance of all…

 
INTRODUCTION: I came across the A song of Ice and fire saga by GRRM about 6 years ago probably just around the time when A feast for crows came out. At the time I was rather new to Fantasy with only a handful of authors like Feist, Brooks, Tolkien…. Under my reading belt, suffice it to say that my reading experience in fantasy was rather limited and starting out I tended to favor books heavy on action and sorcery rather than characterization and dialogue.
So, my first impressions of ASOIF were like its good but damn slow' and please 'A little less conversation and a little more action'. Therefore I read the first four books in the series albeit without the enthusiasm most fantasy fans show for the books although I couldn't just drop off reading the series too(even then I had more sense than that, thankfully!)
My interest was rekindled this year when the TV series of Game of Thrones came out which was truly excellent and quite captivating with a great cast and fabulous script apart from the high budget feel.
ANALYSIS: A dance with dragons is the fifth Book in the series and a rather hefty book (more than 1000 pages). Starting to read I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of writing something I had'nt recognized 6 years ago, Martin pulls readers into his fantastical world with skillful worldbuilding, masterful characterization and memorable dialogue. Martin uses a rotating POV structure to pull his narrative, that works very well, with major characters getting more 'screen time' than other characters who are less focal to the narrative. Amongst the most featured are Daenerys, Tyrion, Jon, Stannis with Cercei, Arya, Bran and Jaime featuring for smaller amounts of time respectively.
I found Tyrion to be my most favorite character this time around, his bawdy character making for very interesting reading, every time Tyrion said something obscenely hilarious Peter Dinklage sprang to mind whose portrayal of Tyrion LAnnister in the TV series is certainly award worthy. Tyrion's troubles have incrased exponentially; with no more lannister gold to compensate for his stature he has only his sharp wits and tongue to get him through tough spots.
Daenerys's rule of Mereen is one full of challenges and the portrayal is very near to reality, with the conquering of the city being shown as the easy part and the administration of the said city far from it. Her decisions are shown to carry ripples across the peninsula. The abolition of slavery leads to many complications that are very well handled by Martin. Daenerys's character matures much this time around with her making many decisions she finds distasteful and with her sacrificing her on her own principles for the good of the people.Daenerys's Dragons for me were one of the best done parts of the novel. GRRM's dragons are more real than any others I've come across, the repercussions of their return into the world and some insight into why Dragons are so significant to would be conquerors are very well written by the author.
In the North, Jon's part this time around was major to the story line overall, but for me the least interesting. Winter is almost come and Jon is shown trying to integrate the wildlings and the Night Watch together to make common cause against the Others, but he faces much opposition for his own brothers as well as Queen Selyse, making for too much bickering for my taste. Stannis, the King on the Wall, is intent on gathering the northern Lords to his cause, with the Northern Lords divided between him and the Boltons. The complications arising from the intermixing of people from diverse religions adds something new to the series.
A dance with dragons is a roller coaster ride with lots happening. The rotating POV structure makes this feeling of smooth flow even more prominent, with Martin moving to another POV before the first becomes boring. Since these POV's take place across the whole huge and sprawling world of ASOIF, it gives the narrative a very epic feel.
The series is known for its twists and turns and complete shockers, in this Dance is no different. GRRM will keep his reputation for being very cruel to his protagonists, and a shocking aspect about the Stark children is revealed.
A dance with Dragons is a very entertaining book, the pages turn by themselves and oft times I found myself appreciating the writing, the dialogue or laughing out loudly at Tyrion's japes. There are a number of great lines with "words are wind" being a very common phrase. There are many other great lines for example:
"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one."

 
The book builds to probably the most crucial battle in the ASOIF series. But unfortunately, in spite of the its length the Book ends on a disappointing note, with a number of cliffhangers that may not lead up to climax for 3-4 years at the least. GRRM says that the last 100 or so pages had been taken out to kick-start The Winds of Winter i.e. the sixth book in the series, but we have a long and frustrating wait ahead of us before we'll see any of the major plot threads being wrapped up.
Inspite of these difficulties A Dance with Dragons will remain one of the best fantasy books to come out this or any year and come year's end will be on my own and many other's top lists.

 

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Top upcoming Games 2011



1).Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim
Release Date: Nov 11 2011


Details:
Genre: RPG 
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios

Summary:

The Empire of Tamriel is on the edge. The High King of Skyrim has been murdered. Alliances form as claims to the throne are made. In the midst of this conflict, a far more dangerous, ancient evil is awakened. Dragons, long lost to the passages of the Elder Scrolls, have returned to Tamriel. The future of Skyrim, even the Empire itself, hangs in the balance as they wait for the prophesized Dragonborn to come; a hero born with the power of The Voice, and the only one who can stand amongst the dragons.

Trailer:





My thoughts: Games like this one come out only once a few years, I played its predecessor that is Elder scrolls 4: oblivion and it was a total romp, a  joy of a game. One could spend hours and hours and not feel bored at all. Highly addictive, highly recommended stuff. But this one it seems to be even better, I hadn't thought it was possible.


E3-Gameplay Demo: Skyrim:






2) BattleField Bad Company 3:


Release Date: Oct 25 2011


Details:
Genre: Online Shooter
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Digital Illusions CE (DICE)
Online Play: 24 Versus
Expansions: Battlefield 3: Back to Karkand.


Summary:
Prepare for full-scale war with Battlefield 3, the third major evolution of the long-running online battle franchise. Using the power of Frostbite 2 game engine technology, Battlefield 3 delivers superior visual quality, a grand sense of scale, massive destruction, dynamic audio and incredibly lifelike character animations. As bullets whiz by, walls crumble, and explosions throw you to the ground, the battlefield feels more alive and interactive than ever before.
In Battlefield 3, players step into the role of the elite U.S. Marines where they will experience heart-pounding single player missions and competitive multiplayer actions ranging across diverse locations from around the globe including Europe, Middle-East and North America.


Trailer:


My thoughts: If you've seen the trailer above you won't be needing any words from me to convince you what a gem this one's gonna be.


3)Star wars the Old Republic
Release Date:Dec 31, 2011
Details:
Genre: Persistent Online RPG
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer/Co-Developer: BioWare Austin / BioWare


Summary:
Set 300 years after the events in Knights of the Old Republic (and featuring some familiar faces), Star Wars: The Old Republic will put players on either side of a massive war between the Republic and the Empire.
In Star Wars: The Old Republic, players will explore an age thousands of years before the rise of Darth Vader when war between the Old Republic and the Sith Empire divides the galaxy. Players can choose to play as Jedi, Sith, or a variety of other classic Star Wars roles, defining their personal story and determining their path down the light or dark side of the Force. Along the way, players will befriend courageous companions who will fight at their side or possibly betray them, based on the players' actions. Players can also choose to team up with friends to battle enemies and overcome incredible challenges.


Trailer 1:






Trailer 2:

My Thoughts: These Cinematic trailers are just awesome, hopefully the game won't disappoint either.


4). Batman: Arkham City
Release Date:Oct 18, 2011
Details:
Genre: Action
Publisher/Co-Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive / Eidos Interactive
Developer: Rocksteady Studios


Summary:
Batman: Arkham City builds upon the intense, atmospheric foundation of Batman: Arkham Asylum, sending players soaring into Arkham City, the new maximum security home for all of Gotham City's thugs, gangsters and insane criminal masterminds.
Set inside the heavily fortified walls of a sprawling district in the heart of Gotham City, this highly anticipated sequel introduces a brand-new story that draws together a new all-star cast of classic characters and murderous villains from the Batman universe, as well as a vast range of new and enhanced gameplay features to deliver the ultimate experience as the Dark Knight.


Trailers galore:




The Penguin Trailer:





The Riddler Trailer:



Caltwoman Trailer:



Catwoman Gameplay Trailer:





5). Assassin's Creed Revelations:
Release Date:Nov 30, 2011
Details:
Genre: Action Adventure
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer/Co-Developer: Ubisoft Montreal / Ubisoft Annecy


Summary:
Assassin's Creed Revelations presents the most immersive experience available in the series to date and the culmination of Ezio's adventure. In Assassin’s Creed Revelations, master assassin Ezio Auditore walks in the footsteps of his legendary mentor, Alta├»r, on a journey of discovery and revelation. It is a perilous path – one that will take Ezio to Constantinople, the heart of the Ottoman Empire, where a growing army of Templars threatens to destabilize the region.
In addition to Ezio’s award-winning story, the acclaimed online multiplayer experience from Assassin's Creed Brotherhood returns, refined and expanded, with more modes, more maps and more characters that allow players to test their assassin skills against others from around the world. The latest chapter in the Assassin’s Creed saga also includes revolutionary gameplay, allowing players to manipulate the construct of Desmond’s memories and the Animus to decipher the mysteries of his past and gain insight into the future.
Trailer:





Gameplay Trailer:









And one from 2012


5).Tomb Raider:


Release Date:Sep 30, 2012


Details:

Genre: Action 
Publisher: Square Enix Europe
Developer: Crystal Dynamics


Summary:
Tomb Raider delivers an intense and gritty story of the origins of Lara Croft and her ascent from frightened young woman to hardened survivor, armed with only raw instincts and the physical ability to push beyond the limits of human endurance. Superb physics-based gameplay is paired with a heart-pounding narrative in Lara's most personal, character-defining adventure to date.


Cinematic Trailer:







Gameplay Trailer:




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