Monday, 26 November 2012

Doctor Who The Wheel of Ice by Stephen Baxter audiobook

Following close on the heels of JP Colgan’s novel, we have The Wheel of Ice, but sci-fi hard-hitter Stephen Baxter.
This, I am delighted to say, features possibly my favourite TARDIS line-up: The Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe. And what’s more, this being a second Doctor story, it is read by the wonderful David Troughton, who, as I have said here before, does an uncanny impersonation of his father. Things are let down somewhat by him having to supply not one but two Scottish accents during the course of the story. It’s not that it’s hard to tell the difference between them, more that they are not… great! However, this is really just a minor criticism. 
The story itself is everything you would expect from a writer like Baxter. It contains some breathtakingly huge sci-fi concepts. The central idea is simultaneously incredibly ambitious and mind expanding in scope and concept and, well, same old same old. 
What I mean by this is this: I made a comment in the review of Dark Horizons about the central idea of the story being one that has been used, in my opinion, too many times in Who and in sci-fi in general. This book really does just take that same idea and dresses it in different clothes.
This is not to say, of course, that it is a bad book. Baxter is an amazingly good writer. As well as being able to communicate complex ideas and give the reader a true sense of the scale of the things he is describing, he also tells a rattling good adventure yarn. His characterisations of the main characters are spot on. I think there was a minor continuity error in there somewhere, but to tell the truth I didn’t write it down at the time and have forgotten now, so I suspect it wasn’t that important (well, I know it’s not important at all, but you know what I mean!).
So, in summary. This is Big Concept sci-fi of the like we don’t normally see in a Who story. I wasn’t convinced it would work if I was being honest, but it most certainly does. 

This is well worth your trouble.

The Wheel in Space is released by AudioGo.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Cancertown 2 - Blasphemous Tumours

Review by Colin Taylor

When discussing something I’ve enjoyed reading I often use superlatives like:


Now when it comes to ‘Cancertown 2 - Blasphemous Tumours’ none of those seem appropriate. At all.

I don’t think the creators would thank me for using them either. Rather its ugly and depraved, grim and dirty, challenging and uncomfortable and you know what, I think that’ll make them happy. I should add its never anything other than gripping, a real page turner.

For those of you that don’t know ‘Cancertown 2’ is the sequel to... well ‘Cancertown’. In this second book our... I’ll not use the word hero, our protagonist, Vince Morley, seemingly riddled with disease and convinced he’s dying, is drawn back from ‘our’ world into the eponymous netherworld, that exists across the darker edges of ‘ours’. There, as he degenerates, piece by piece, body part by body part, before our eyes, he has to rally the forces he needs to defeat a terrible new menace, Headrush, who’s ripping apart this grim world and its inhabitants. In the very opening scene Headrush literally tears apart a character called Corpsegrinder. This perfectly sets the scene and tone for the rest of the story. The stakes are high.

While Morley is attempting to save Cancertown he barely manages to retain what little is left of his grip on both world’s he inhabits. An entire world is at stake and the only thing that can save it is a man seemingly powered by anger and self recrimination alone. This isn’t light reading!

At first glance you’d be forgiven for wondering why Morley would want to save Cancertown and “players” who live there. The place really is some hellish landscape, scarred and scabbed over. The “players” who are harsh and perfectly hideously designed, are all filled with bile and bitterness. None of them seem to like each other and most of them seem to want to wreck vicious vengeance on Morley. They are restrained only by the prospect that Morley apparently is a being of great power in their world.

As the tale unfolds and Morley revisits many of the denizens of this bleak and soul crushing place, you begin to understand its power and honesty. Its not pleasant, but it exists, it reflects our work and its taken the creators courage to explore it.

The story by Cy Dethan, is really engaging, bold and thrilling but not perfect. The overarching plot can sometimes get a little lost, as we (re)meet and greet Cancertown’s inhabitants one by one. Many of the grudging conversations Morley has with them run over similar ground. How the particular ‘player’ he is talking to, really should be a greater danger to Morley than they seem to be. None of them like him, but they provide him with revelations about his relationship with the realm he is apparently so ‘powerful’ in. Yet they all leave enough enigma in what they say to keep Morley and the reader guessing and wanting to learn more, which drives the story forward.

Each of the ‘players’ gets an individual font for their speech, to emphasize how different they sound. A Letters’ job is to go unnoticed, well most the time, they are the great unsung heroes of comics. Their craft is to help the reader move around the page and absorb the story without really drawing attention to their work. The first half is of this is managed well here by Nic Wilkinson. The second half less so. The use of too many fonts (and to be fair I have no idea if this was dictated in the script?) was pretty distracting and given the scripting was strong enough and the dialogue well crafted enough, to grant each character its own voice, its unnecessary too.

While we’re on visuals the art by Graeme Howard, coloured by Peter Mason, grows throughout the story. At the start it can be awkward and the storytelling slips at times Pretty early on these problems are sorted out and before you know it Mason is doing a fine job. It is, throughout, gritty and ugly, but its meant to be. It looks entirely appropriate for the story and the art sets the atmosphere perfectly. Characters have a diversity that means everyone is easy to identify and while the script doesn’t always call for great emotional range, people are angry A LOT, desperate and menacing, occasionally scared, but that’s about it, all of this the artist conveys perfectly well.

Before reading Cancertown 2 I was warned, by one of the creators no less, that I’d need to read the first book beforehand, or risk getting lost. Stuff and grimy nonsense I say. This is a sequel, but its structured in such a way as to introduce you to all the characters, settings and workings of Cancertown, perfectly well. In fact I’d suggest that Dethan does an excellent job of this. Important events have clearly happened before and I understood that if I’d read the first book I’d know more about the specifics of the moments referred to, but everything you need to enjoy... well be grabbed, by this story is given to you.

It does worry me these days how people expect to know everything about every story in front of them. I’m more than happy to accept that the characters in a story have existed before and may well do so after its finished, in fact its the sign of a good story, characters should feel as though they have lived beyond what we read and Cancertown 2 does this very well. Letting you know what you need to naturally and fluidly, without upsetting the balance of keeping things moving on at the same time.

I chose not to read the first book after the warning, though I was offered it, as I think its important that a book of some 140ish pages, should bloomin’ well stand up by itself and I’m glad to report it does. Sure reading this made me want to go back and read the first, but out of curiosity not necessity.

The fact that Cancertown 2 is so grim and ugly is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness. It has a tone and atmosphere that’s entirely appropriate for the story and themes explored. The book stands out as a bold exploration of the things that rot people, both physically and mentally. Its meant to be hard and its meant to be difficult. Which is of course also its biggest weakness, there’s little variance, its relentless and unswerving. Given its aims and themes that’s understandable, but can make it unpleasant to read, that’s not to say its not gripping, but unpleasant all the same.

I kind of think that’s exactly how the creators want you to feel.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Simon Bisley and Glenn Fabry signing Batman Judge Dredd Collection

To celebrate the release of THE BATMAN JUDGE DREDD COLLECTION on 27th November, 2000 AD is delighted to announce an exclusive signing by two of the biggest names in British comics.

Simon Bisley and Glenn Fabry will be signing and sketching at Gosh! Comics on 1 Berwick Street, London, UK, this Saturday (24th November) from 2pm to 4pm. The work of both for the Batman/Judge Dredd crossover stories was critically-lauded and praised by fans.

The Batman Judge Dredd Collection is a brand new hard-back collection that brings together all of the characters’ crossovers stories from the 1990s for the first time, and also includes the hard-to-find Lobo/Dredd crossover story. It is being co-published by 2000 AD and DC Comics.

Thursday, 8 November 2012


I'm unashamedly a massive fan of this series, so I make no apologies for this press release!

 Today, Ubisoft announced Assassin’s Creed Anthology, a unique collection containing every Assassin’s Creed game ever released for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, available exclusively at Amazon in the UK from November 30, 2012 for £119.99.
Assassin’s Creed Anthology is a prestige collector’s edition which includes all expansion packs and downloadable content for the Assassin’s Creed games, including the Season Pass for Assassin’s Creed III, which provides full access to all forthcoming downloadable content, the first of which will be available mid-December.  The Anthology Edition also includes five exclusive lithographs, an exclusive steel book and a collector’s box.
Assassin’s Creed Anthology includes:
Assassin’s Creed®
Experience the power of an Assassin in Jerusalem, 1191 AD during the brutal times of the third Crusades.

Assassin's Creed® II
Assassin's Creed II introduces you to Ezio, a new assassin carrying on the deadly lineage of his forebears. Confront an epic tale of power and corruption as you hone your assassin's art, wielding weapons and instruments designed by the legendary Leonardo da Vinci himself in this gripping and deadly sequel.
Also includes:
Sequence 12: Battle of Forlì DLC and Sequence 13: Bonfire of the Vanities DLC.

Assassin's Creed® Brotherhood - The Da Vinci Edition
Ezio must journey into Italy’s greatest city, Rome, center of power, greed and corruption to strike at the heart of the enemy. Defeating the corrupt tyrants entrenched there will require not only strength, but leadership, as Ezio commands an entire brotherhood of assassins who will rally to his side. Only by working together can the assassins defeat their mortal enemies and prevent the extinction of their order.
Also includes:
The Da Vinci Disappearance: 1 single player story Mission
2 Additional Solo Missions: Trajan Market and the Aqueducts
New Multiplayer features: 1 Map + 6 Characters + 2 new modes

Assassin's Creed® Revelations - The Ottoman Edition
Ezio Auditore must leave his life behind in search of answers, in search of the truth. In Assassin's Creed® Revelations, master assassin Ezio Auditore walks in the footsteps of the legendary mentor Altaïr, 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.
Also includes:
The lost archive: 1 single player story Mission
New Singleplayer Features: 3 Skins, Capacity upgrades + 1 Additional Mission: Vlad the Impaler’s Prison
New Multiplayer Features: 6 Maps + 7 Characters + Customisation Items

Assassin's Creed® III
Assassin’s Creed III invites players to experience the untold story of the American Revolution through the eyes of a new Assassin, Connor.  Designed from the ground up over more than two years, Assassin’s Creed III takes one of gaming’s most beloved franchises to new heights.
Also includes:
The Season Pass, providing instant access to all forthcoming Assassin’s Creed® III downloadable game content packs, the first of which is available from mid-December 2012.

For more information on Assassin’s Creed, please visit ( and

Judge Dredd joins World Book Night

Rebellion Publishing is delighted to announce that one of 2000 AD’s titles has been chosen as the first ever graphic novel to be featured in World Book Night.

Judge Dredd: The Dark Judges is an all-time classic from the pages of the ongoing weekly British comic, and this pocket-size ‘B format’ reprint sees the ultimate lawman of the future encounter his deadliest foes - Judges from a dimension where even life itself is a crime!

It is the first time that a graphic novel has been featured in World Book Night, which aims to give away 500,000 books to promote and encourage reading. The BBC has returned as the charity’s media partner, with the book selection to feature on BBC1’s “The One Show” tonight (8 November), as well as tomorrow’s “Newsnight Review”.

Featuring some of the most iconic moments in the strip’s history, this volume includes the original Judge Death story, along with the sequels, Death Lives and The Dark Judges, and the Judge Anderson follow-up, Four Dark Judges.

“As one of the most iconic British brands in publishing we are absolutely delighted to be a part of World Book Night ,” said 2000 AD and Rebellion Publishing manager Ben Smith. “Not only is The Dark Judges a classic Judge Dredd story, but the role that comics can play in encouraging reading and boosting literacy is well known. I have no doubt that people who receive one of the free copies will discover a new world of amazing stories, and hopefully will develop an appetite for great British comics.”