Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Journey into Space Operation Luna review

I’m sure most of you have heard of Journey into Space, even if you have never actually heard it. This was certainly my own situation. I knew of the series, and was vaguely aware of the high regard it was held in, but that was about it.
So, when I put the first disc on to listen to it, I was expecting something very much of it’s time. I was prepared for something entertaining, but – to be frank – past its sell-by date.
What I was not prepared for however, was just how very good this is.
And what’s so good about it?
Well, while it is true there are some astounding anachronisms in there, like while they’re running low on oxygen in the ship they resolve to smoke just one cigarette each, these are vastly outweighed by the sheer breadth of ideas in here.
As I listened, without reading the liner notes, I assumed that this was recorded in the mid-sixties. It was incredible to discover that it had actually been originally broadcast in 1953! This was before Laika blasted into space and almost a decade before Yuri Gagarin made history. Too complicated to go into here- look it up on Wiki!
In light of this, the amount of detail that Charles Chilton gets right is nothing short of astounding. Even from our perspective fifty years of scientific discovery later, Chilton’s explanations of faster than light travel, time and space early man still hold up pretty well.
And yes, of course there are some things he gets wrong- like the surface of the moon for example- but these things do not matter.
This is because the story is so very strong. It starts with a few slow episodes, but things quickly pick up once we get to the moon and things start to go… strange. There is one standout sequence with the crew in their capsule on the moon when they hear something outside the ship, banging on the door. It is brilliantly written and performed, and managed to disturb me while driving on a summer day, so heaven knows how it must have terrified the listening audience at the time!
The story twists and turns in an expert fashion, with some delightful cliff hangers, well written and acted characters and well thought out and believable situations.
I really loved this. I did not expect to, buy as I got towards the end, and the final couple of discs, I found myself almost reluctant to listen to them because I didn’t want it to end.
But end it did, and an a nice note that promises more, which I hope AudioGo will release in time.
The set also contains a shot Radio 4 documentary featuring interviews with some of the surviving cast and crew.
A great package, and one well worth the time and effort of any serious sci-fi fan. Or indeed any non-serious one who likes to be entertained!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Friday, 22 July 2011

The Afterblight Chronicles: America review

You may already be aware of the Afterblight series from Abaddon books. If you haven’t (or indeed, if you have), the series is set in the aftermath of a worldwide plague that has wiped out the majority of the planet’s population.
This volume collects three of the early novels in the series. The first two books in the run: The Culled by Simon Spurrier and Kill or Cure by Rebecca Levene are here alongside Death Got No Mercy by fan favourite Al Ewing.

The Culled serves brilliantly as an introduction to the world, and the unnamed main character is an excellent vehicle – his job in the previous world allowed him access to information on the plague that he kindly shares with the reader.
The story itself is a pretty good one too. The central mystery of the book- the Quest our hero is on- is well handled. Spurrier drip-feeds information throughout the book on this while at the same time engaging in some major world building- he has the job of setting things up for every book that will follow after all!
The author also seems to delight in putting his lead character through some of the most horrendous tortures (something he shares with Al Ewing in his contribution), dropping him into some severe situations- all of which makes for an exciting book.
Think James Bond meets Mad Max and you’re part-way there!

Levene’s Kill or Cure is a clever almost sort of follow-up to Spurrier’s novel. The books cross paths on a couple of occasions, but it would be a shame to tell you exactly how, as it would spoil it somewhat.
Levene takes what Spurrier has laid out in his book and builds on it admirably, expanding on things he has hinted on and adding more clever ones of her own.
Her lead character is altogether more sympathetic than Spurrier’s, and the reader really feels for her as things go pear shaped. It is not without moments that give the reader pause. The lead is very resourceful. She is able to fire a gun for example, with considerable skill. This is explained somewhat, but still sticks out a bit- as does the ease with which she kills. I would have thought that a doctor, for that is what she is, would have at least had slight pause before killing. Then again, I have never been in a post-apocalypse situation, so really can’t say how anyone should or would act!

And then we come to Ewing’s Death Got no Mercy. If you are in any way familiar with Al’s oeuvre, then you’ll know roughly what to expect here. I’ve went on record as saying that Ewing is going to be the major talent in comics- certainly in British comics, and probably on the world stage too- in the next few years. But let’s not forget that he’s a hell of a prose writer too.
This book is... mental. As series editor Jon Oliver says in his intro to this collection, Al described it as ‘A man goes to San Francisco and kills everyone’. And Ewing is as good as his word.
Cade, the lead character, is quite a creation. He is a genuine force of nature- a character propelled onwards by a single purpose. Along the way towards this purpose he does a lot of very violent things. Brutally violent things is short and punchy (haha!) chapters. But they are also very funny things. The violence is so massively over the top that the reader can do nothing but be swept along by the wave of brutality. He has a fist fight with a grizzly bear.
There are a couple of hiccups there though. There is a meta-fictional passage in there that is clever and well written, and I can understand why it is there, but is only succeeded in pulling me out of the book for a few pages. And Cade, the lead character, meets a group of folks along the way that for me were a too easy joke to make (they were still funny though!).
But having said that, this book is great. Cade is a wonderfully brutal character, and I for one wouldn’t mind seeing more of him.

And that brings me to my only real problem with the three books here. This does not apply as much to Ewing’s book as to the other two, although he is guilty of it to an extent.
Each book, while being a self contained tale it its own right, ends with the lead character heading off on either another quest or on the next stage of the one they were on, and to the best of my knowledge, none of the creators has returned to their stories to tell the next chapter.
On balance though, this is a very good value collection, and if you haven’t yet visited the world of the Afterblight, I suggest you give it a try.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Super 8 - Gonna be Mint

To promote the international release of SUPER 8 Paramount Pictures International (PPI) has launched a captivating 3D experience putting you at the heart of the thrilling and emotional journey Joe Lamb and his group of filmmaking friends from Ohio embark upon in the summer of 1979. 
Over time, original content, artefacts, clips, radio broadcasts, retro games & applications unlock the amazing mystery & shocking truths behind Super 8. Be inspired to have a filmmaking adventure of your own at www.GonnaBeMint.com  

Subscribe to http://gonna-be-mint.tumblr.com/ to unravel the story in real time from all your favourite social and mobile devices.

Super 8 movie releases in the UK August 5th

Pandora's Box vol 5: Envy review

This, the fifth book in this series of self contained stories based around the seven deadly sins is, as you can see, riffing on the sin of envy.
Things start of fairly normally, as we watch Tibor and Eva go about their day and see them heading to work in a factory. This narrative is broken up by scenes of apparently unconnected storylines featuring a preacher and a firefighter.
While at work that day… and it is there that I will have to leave this description, because to tell any more will be close to spoilering the tale, and I do not want to do that.
There is a pretty big twist a short way into the book, and it’s a good one because I really should have seen it coming. Like all good twists, it is there for all to see from the off. But like all good writers, Alcante, along with the help of some stunning work for artist Alain Henriet, slips it past the reader.
What follows is a story that is in turn high octane adventure, spy thriller, romance and a good old fashioned heart breaker.
There is so much plot crammed into this book, and so may ideas, I found it amazing that they all fitted into the relatively short length of the volume.
For my sins (see what I did there?) I have not read the previous volumes in this series- but this was enough to make we want to hunt them down. And I know you’ll feel the same.
As mentioned briefly above, the art is great (as is always the case with Cinebook), but the colouring here, by Usagi, lifts things to an even higher level- and I have just, while typing this sentence, figured out why it has a predominately green palette!
So, once more I say- forget your superhero books for a moment, stop worrying about the DC reboot and treat yourself to something truly special.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Story of Lee review

Writer Sean Michael Wilson is a Scot living in Japan. One of the main characters in this book is a Scottish man living in Hong Kong- I wonder if it would be too much of a leap to see this book as somewhat autobiographical in places?
If it is, it is a remarkably honest one. Matt, the character in question is, while being a quite nice guy, not without his faults- particularly when it comes to his attitude to women and sex. Indeed, this honesty is something that permeates the whole book.
Apart from our title character Lee, most of the others are shot through with just enough flaws to lift them above what so easily could have been clichéd (domineering father, long suffering mother and kindly grandmother) stock characters and turn them into something altogether more real.
This is helped considerably by some wonderful artwork from (and this is where we declare an interest!) Hi-Ex! guest (indeed, Hi-Ex! stalwart) Chie Kutsuwada. While some of her work at the beginning of the book seems a bit shaky, the reader can almost see her confidence grow after only a short number of pages, and the standard of work just gets better and better as the volume goes on. Her brilliant use of silent panels and understanding of body language (like a heartbreakingly sad panel of Lee’s parents in bed together) really add depth to the emotion of the story.
While the arc of the story will, I suspect, not surprise many readers, it is told with such warmth, skill and truthfulness that the reader cannot help but be carried along by it and then lifted by the note of hopefulness at the end.
And ending which does a superb job of leaving the reader wanting more.
Seek this out!

The Story of Lee is published by NBM Comics.

The Amazing Spider-man trailer

This was leaked online last night, as I'm sure you've seen, but now it has been released officially.

Yes, it is another origin story but honestly, if you're able to swallow DC Comics rebooting their entire universe, I think you can accept this, eh?
All in all, this looks like fun, and the trailer ends with a simply astonishing POV shot.

Monday, 18 July 2011

The Dark Knight Rises teaser trailer

It's here at last!
Not a lot to go on though- plenty of clips of the previous movies and a few seconds of the new one. Nice voiceover from Liam Neeson's Ra's Al Ghul, fueling rumours that he's making a return in this movie and adding to the whole Star Wars episode one feel, along with the "Every journey has a beginning" vibe...
What do you think?

Can't seem to embed it at the moment, but when we can we will- meantime, have a look at it HERE or on the facebook page HERE.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Overload #0 review

Martin Conaghan will, of course, already be known to you as the writer of the award winning (actually, he’s also the award winning writer of) Burke and Hare. He is also writing the comic adaptation of the novel Fallen Heroes, which we reviewed here and interviewed Martin about here.
So, what’s this all about that?
Well, Overload is a collection of one off strips, all of which have been written by Conaghan. These have been published in a variety of different collections from Negative Burn to last years Survival Stories collection.
The art, and indeed the roll call of artists, is constantly impressive throughout. The art on every strip is nothing less than superb.
As for the strips themselves, they too are a quality collection of tales. Conaghan is very good at finding a voice for a strip and his narratives are tight and well thought out, his dialogue realistic and authentic .
If there was one strip I didn’t get it would be 'And He Did', which is a recreation (albeit with things in a more ‘logical’ order) of the Christian creation myth. It is, as every else in the book is, well written, and the art by Simon Wyatt is amazing, but ultimately I could not see what point the writer was trying to make.
However, this is more than outweighed by the Good Stuff. They range from things that really should not work but somehow they do- like Conaghan’s adaptation of the Stan Ridgeway song Camouflage, to straight up horror in the atmospheric 'Roguarou'. But it is in the poignant 'The Mortons' that Cognahan most impresses, with a deceptively simple tale. I say deceptively- because you just try writing with this kind of economy and you will see what I mean!
This is an impressive first issue, and we can only hope that it continues and we get another quality UK anthology title.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Doctor Who The Cold Equations review

You may remember that I enjoyed the previous Big Finish 1st Doctor and Stephen adventure, and that it ended on a note promising more to come.
Well, that promise has been made good with this latest Big Finish release.
As with The Perpetual Bond, this is narrated by Peter Purvis and co-stars Tom Allen as new companion Oliver, who gets some meat character work to get his teeth into.
At the end of the last adventure (Minor spoilers here people! Stop reading if you haven’t listened to it yet and skip to the next paragraph) Oliver came on board the TARDIS, and we got a hint that he was running from some dark secret… well, hin this story we find out what that secret it. And it provides a wonderful twist which is simultaneously very modern and old fashioned at the same time. I also found that it cast an interesting  light on Oliver’s character in The Perpetual Bond.
Purvis is, as always, excellent. And I really have to draw attention to his impression of the 1st Doctor, because it is pretty much spot on. There were many occasions while listening to this that I really thought I was hearing an unbroadcast story with Billy Hartnell himself.
It was also nice to see Stephen get to flex his astronaut muscles. The bulk of the second half of this story is dedicated to a fascinating and exciting scene where Stephen gets to actually be an astronaut. Pyramids of Mars is one of my favourite stories because the twist in the end works because of real science, and this one plays a similar trick, and, I have to say, does it just as successfully.
I loved this- in fact it is possibly one of my favourite Big Finish Whos ever. And when you consider the quality of the best of the previous releases from this company, you’ll know that this is no small praise.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Sugar Glider Stories review

We’re fans of Sugar Glider here, as you will know from our review of the previous book.
It’s always a risky proposition to start an ongoing series in the small press. Too many times they have been seen to start with a bang, only to fizzle out after an issue or two as the creators begin to realise the enormity of the task they are trying to carry out with little or no financial reward.
The Sugar Glider fellows have sidestepped this in a nice way with this edition by opening things up to other creators. This is, of course, both a blessing and a curse, as it can and does mean you invariably end up with a mixed bag of strips when it comes to quality.
However when they are good, they are very good, and when they are not so good they are just that. There are no ‘bad’ strips in this collection. Some of the art and writing is below a professional standard but the passion and enthusiasm is palpable throughout the book.
Also, for a superhero book, I should say that my favourite story was one that contains no superheroics at all and is, in fact, a group of people sitting at a table having a meal. Elsewhere, we get hints and clues to the Bigger Picture and discover a little more about Susie Sullivan and her glider suit which in turn sets things up nicely for future episodes.
This book is well worth you seeking it out, as it (and the previous issue) demonstrate brilliantly just how good, how creative and just how entertaining the British Small Press can be.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Electric Man trailer!

Those of you who were at the last Hi-Ex! will not have failed to see the Electric Man guys there spreading the word about their movie.

Well, now you can feast your eyes on the glory of the trailer! And we have to say- it looks brilliant. Edinburgh looks great, and there's a certain amount (read: MASSIVE amount) of fanboy excitement here at Mr Derek Dick being in it!

You can find out all the latest news on the movie by joining up at their Facebook page.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Auditions Open for the Tales of the Fallen: Empire of Blood Audio Drama

So, any of you ever fancied trying your hand at acting? Well, here is your chance!
The ever expanding Unseen Shadows universe is dipping it's toes into the audio drama market.

You can find details about it HERE.

Good luck!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Doctor Who: Eye of the Jaguar review

This latest original Eleventh Doctor adventure from AudioGo is a bit more ambitious than the previous few releases in that it stretches itself over the course of a couple of hours, rather than the one hour/ one disc format we’ve had lately.
And for the most part, the story benefits from it. Where the previous stories were, thanks to their length, punchy and to the point, I feared that this one would perhaps wallow a bit in filling the time. And while it is true there are a few scenes that could do with being trimmed, it is on the whole, the length it should be.
So, what have we got here? It is ostensibly an historical adventure- set in the South American jungle in the early 1800s. The Doctor, Amy and Rory meet up with a group of explorers who are there to hunt and capture animals for the soon to open London Zoo.
Now, Rory is one of my favourite Who characters ever. He is a proper ‘voice’ for the viewer in a way that none of the previous new Who companions have been, and I am pleased to say that he is excellently written here- as are both the Doctor and Amy.
The story in itself is pretty good too, and the writer, Darren Jones, was obviously having a load of fun while writing it, something that is evident in the final act, as he really goes to town with some imaginative monsters. Oh, and the sly nod to the Exorcist also made me smile- I wonder if this is a first for Who (not me smiling, the reference…)?
And all this would be for nothing without a good narrator. Thankfully, we get David Troughton- fresh from his triumphant reading of The War Games.
And while, in his readings, Matt Smith goes for it with a ridiculous Scottish accent, Troughton goes the opposite direction and barely tries at all. When he does, it comes out more Somerset that Inverness, so maybe it’s as well he doesn’t try too hard.
But overall, this is a great piece of writing and is performed excellently by Troughton, and the sound design unobtrusive, but at the same time it manages to add another layer to the production.

 Great stuff, and just the thing to fill the gap while we all wait for the Doctor's return in the autumn. 

Friday, 1 July 2011

XII Vol 7: The Night of August Third review

You may remember that in the previous volume, The Jason Fly Case, we left our titular hero XIII in a bit of a sticky situation.
Well, this volume does not give the reader much time to gather their wits- after a brief recap page, we’re thrown straight into the thick of things. And what a lot of things there are too!
At the risk of sounding like I’m trying to be cleverer than you (well, I am, but never mind!), as a writer I can really appreciate the incredible job that Jean Van Hamme does with this series. He is juggling a hell of a lot of balls between the long story and character arcs and the shorter, but no less ambitious or complex, arcs of this particular adventure. It is a masterful display of how to write comics.
And talking of this adventure. Van Hamme set a lot of wheels rolling in the previous volume, and they (mostly) come to a neat halt at the end of this book, with the bittersweet  conclusion of the story where the reader comes away knowing a lot more about the identity of XIII, and yet somehow has even more mysteries to contemplate.
And the art. Well, you don’t need me to tell you, do you? I was going to say something clichéd like "William Vance brings his ‘A’ game to this book," but I suspect that ‘A’ is the only game he has. There are many artistic highlights to this volume, but the standout sections are the flashback sequences- these are presented as plain black and white line art, so there is a wonderful chance to wallow in the utter beauty of the artist’s exquisite penmanship.
I’m beginning to sound like a broken record when it comes to these Cinebook releases, but you really need to buy this.