Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Throne of the Crescent Moon

Hello readers, I come back to you now with another review. This time I send us off to exotic lands of deserts and djinn, ghuls and dervishes. This week I bring you a review of Saladin Ahmed's, Throne of the Crescent Moon!

This is a refreshing and interesting fantasy book since it departs from what we would view as traditional fantasy in a number of what I consider to be very unique circumstances. The first is that rather being set in anything even resembling a facsimile of Medieval Europe, we instead get something that is much more like a fantasy Asia all mixed into one! We have a Khalif who sits on the Crescent Moon Throne of the great city of Dhamsawaat, an ancient society which is a sort of Ancient Egypt, and the surrounding societies all seem to resemble things like the Muslim Kingdoms of India or the Pacific. It's a fresh and as far as I'm aware, virtually unique look at a sort of pseudo-Islamic world in fantasy.

The book itself is written by a man named Saladin Ahmed, a man who is both a poet and a writer who has an extensive background in Islamic history and culture. This offers something very new to fantasy, and as far as I'm aware, something that hasn't been explored in depth. The novel has a very 'Thousand and One Nights' feel to it, and is really quite interesting in that sense. It gives you a look into a society that would be familiar to some, yet totally alien to others. It's actually quite like how I would imagine a foreigner reading our High Fantasy really.

It also offers up some rather unusual characters. For one thing the main character is a fat elderly gentleman in his late forties who is somewhat impious and becoming the last of a dwindling order of ghul hunters. His assistant is a pious dervish wielding a double bladed sword to cleave right from wrong and they eventually ally themselves with a tribeswoman with the ability to morph herself into a holy lion that can crush the forces of evil with her angel granted powers.

Not exactly your traditional fantasy  characters.

Their enemies too are a manjackal and a sorcerer who summons ghuls (or ghouls to those of you familiar with my Undead Menace article) to do his bidding.

Still some recognizable fantasy elements all skillfully blended together with new cultural ideas and locales. There's even a political subplot dealing with potential revolutionaries fighting against what they see as the despotic rule of the current Khalif, all for a juicy flavor of political intrigue and high fantasy action.

The characters themselves, Doctor Adoulla Mahkslood, Raseed ben Raseed, and Zamia are all fairly interesting characters. They each have some fairly good character building moments, periods of internal conflict, and issues with one another that serve to make them real and three dimensional rather than your standard do no wrong good guys, hell many of them even exhibit some good old fashion prejudice to those who aren't like them! For instance we have Adoulla and Raseed, two evil fighting partners with completely different views of the world, you have the old veteran Adoulla who has spent his entire life fighting and hunting monsters and is beginning to tire of it all, despite the fact that if he dies there is likely no one else who can carry on his orders knowledge and fight. He is also morally gray and fairly impious, and this clashes well with his young and eager protege who is from a religious order which dedicates itself to a lifelong struggle of virtuous justice. Raseed is very black and white in his worldview which tempers his reactions to any situation in an almost predictable way, but it also gets him into trouble as the story progresses.

As a cool aside, Raseed's sword is based on Iman Ali's sword from Muslim history.

Story wise the plot flows seamlessly from one scene to the next with very little pause in the running action and dialogue. You are driven from the beginning of the Doctor's quest, on a seemingly unrelated matter, into events that shake the very foundation of the city of Dhamsawaat itself! The story is wonderful and relentless in its telling and you really get a feel for each of the individual characters.

We also are treated to some wonderfully exotic action scenes featuring magic, sword fighting, and not a little bit of desperate cleverness on the part of the heroes. It also does a wonderful job of portraying magic that comes with a cost, whether in a persons personality, soul or body. Every spell cast has an immediate physical reaction both against those whom it is cast against, and those who cast it, making the act of calling upon magical forces seem very real and very challenging.

The setting itself  is also exotic and described in some detail giving it a very neat flavor. However, it isn't described as well as one might like. While I got a decent feel for how the city of Dhamsawaat was laid out, I couldn't be sure of everything that was in it and some details of the surrounding area and peoples seemed mildly to vague for how involved they were in the story. Some key locations could also have used a bit more description or even mention early on. For instance, the Khalif's palace is supposed to be the largest structure in all Dhamsawaat but it gets very little mention until directly near the end of the novel. Then one place called Angel's Square gets only cursory description despite being called breath taking and awe inspiring to those who enter it, I really don't have any mental picture of how it's laid out or what it would look like. Similarily Adoulla's house is something which seemed to be introduced a little too late with little preamble for all the meaning it had to Adoulla, something which I think could have been rectified by having Adoulla thinking wistfully about his house and commenting on its value to him earlier in the story.

The pacing of the novel is also quite fast with no real breaks being taken from character to character and all the action seeming to come at once with little suspense in between. We get some periods of calm, but they always feel like we're being whisked away with each character before we can catch our breaths.

That's not a net negative in itself but merely a matter of pacing which I think ought to be addressed in the sequel.

All in all the novel is a good read and is a fascinating insight into a world which is different from ours and the exciting conclusion left us with a load of problems for the heroes to face in the coming future. I felt excited to learn what challenges might crop up in the future and just what new crisis could emerge on the horizon for our heroes.

I've deliberately left the novels plot unspoiled as I think people really ought to read it for themselves so they can get a feel for the world and how it meshes itself out. The novel may feel a bit unpolished and perhaps a bit unrefined but it is well worth the read as Ahmed is really a writer to watch out for in the future!

If I had to give it a rating I'd say 3.5 stars out of 5 would do it for this book.

Until next time readers!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Remakes in Moderation Please

Well I have to say that I have recently come across some mildly disturbing news thanks to Cracked. That is their lovely article here detailing how we have a slew of remakes to look forward to in the near future.

For those not willing to read the article, a short summary; here we have no less than three Peter Pan remakes coming out in the near future, four series that could only under a generous stretch of the imagination be called Wizard of Oz spin offs (of some sort), two new sets of Tarzan movies, and two films about Hercules, one staring the Rock no less.

And some other kid

Now let me get something off my chest, I'm not against remakes, not at all. I actually like many reboots or re imaginings of old shows. For instance I loved Tin Man's re imagining of The Wizard of Oz universe in a slightly darker and more adult version of the old Oz franchise, I am a huge fan of Peter Jackson's 2005 King Kong reboot, Death Race in 2008, The Godzilla remake in 1998, and I sincerely enjoyed the reboot of The Thing in 2011 (ok not technically a reboot or remake but still something cool finally done in the universe there). Hell until Disney acquired the rights to Star Wars I'd even been hoping to see some Star Wars remakes before I died.

However, there is a thing which makes reboots good, and what makes us want them, the fact that we haven't seen these things in a long time.

The upcoming Godzilla remake will have waited a respectable time (16 years) before putting a major Godzilla piece on the market again (and I say major in all seriousness, the Power Ranger esque Godzilla bits coming out in the 80s don't count) and that's what makes people look forward to it.

The TV series Once Upon a Time is fresh because no one has really done a grand new imagining of the old fairy tales in a long time, and not in such a fresh and fascinating way with a diverse cast of characters and an epic plot.

The upcoming sequel to 300 (300: Rise of an Empire) has waited a long time to reintroduce us to that crazy sword and sandals world we haven't seen in a while. I've been broadcasting all about it on my Facebook page for a while now and the trailers have been out on Youtube so if you don't know about it shame on you!

There's also the upcoming re imagining of the 47 Ronin which looks to be almost 300 in Japan, is a film to look forward to I would personally say with cautious optimism.

You know what separates these things from all the other remakes I've mentioned? They're years apart from each other, seem to be trying to breath new and innovative ideas into a creation, and they can act independently of each other. These remakes seem to not even care that they'll be competing with other remakes of the same story, as if the producers didn't stop and think "Hey we'll be flooding the market with a really similar product to the next guy!" making the potential interest evaporate as you see the same thing over and over again. Hell of all the items on the list the only one I would consider seeing is the one that puts a modern soldier in a post-apocalyptic Oz since that seems like an even darker version of Tin Man.

This is actually a problem I've been having with superhero movies recently. Yes their big flashy blockbuster productions what should I expect? Here's the thing though, we're being flooded with cheap (and sometimes tacky) remakes of films, for example, the Hulk films of the last decade are barely 5 years apart all so Hulk could be shoehorned into the Avengers (Don't get me wrong Avengers was great, but did they really need the remake? We know who Hulk is and he doesn't have anything original to contribute to the series like Iron Man, Thor or Captain America, but I digress). Now we're going to have to contend with yet another series of remakes for Super Man (whose films really can't do anything original to save their lives) and more Batman since it seems they intent on recreating the Justice League, meaning we will probably have to endure another Green Lantern movie (gack) and potentially Aquaman.

Now this version I would see

My issue with these is that they are basically just hashing out old ideas and trying to market them to a new audience. In some cases it works (for the Avengers especially) but for things like Batman and Superman, we're really just whipping the same dead horse and we'll probably be at it for the next decade.

Now although some of these remakes may not end up being awful (I'm willing to bet money they won't be great either) I'm not enthusiastic for their release.

To finish off I know that this blog would never get the ear of major producers, but is it seriously so much to ask of them to jump out of the cardboard box they've been in for the last decade and start trying to embrace some new ideas, writers, or scenarios? Hell would it be too much to ask that we could actually try and market a new superhero to people instead of just rehashing old ones?

If we're going to be dusting off old ideas, why not try some that really haven't been done before? Maybe some of H.P Lovecrafts numerous works in his mythos could be adapted (Aquaman optional)? Perhaps we could get a modern Dune series (yes we had the miniseries in 2000 but would a decent film with a good budget really be too much to ask for by 2020?). Or even say an adaption of the great novel Earth Abides? (Not starring Will Smith or Tom Cruise even).

What I suppose I'm trying to say if we have to dust off old ideas rather than attempt to embrace new ones, we could at least be dusting off old ideas that haven't been done before (or at least in a long time). Let's try fishing up some new fodder instead of digging up the same old corpse before it's body is even cold ok producers?

Until next time readers.

Friday, 29 November 2013

On Kings and Other Titles

Well it's a common trope in fantasy that we are in a medieval setting and of course every medieval setting must have an authority figure of some sort, and that of course is the king.

Here is an appropriate music video to get you psyched up and thinking about kings:

Awesome music aside, it's rather telling we are always thinking of kings in  fantasy setting. It's actually very unusual in human history to see anything but some variant of the king-vassal relationship in politics and daily life. Our modern political system is less than a few hundred years old, and would be seen as phenomenal (or idiotic) by most previous societies on earth.

In fantasy though one can always count on seeing the good/evil king sitting on his throne surrounded by scheming lords and advisers in his court. Unfailingly we see the fates of kingdoms resting in the hands of plucky heroes, we see crowns being won and lost, and we see kings as characters and come up with the issue of ruling.

Though some must ask; why all the time kings? Can't we see emperors, samurai, daimyo, caliphs, sultans, chiefs, viziers, and pope's engaged in such situations as well?

My answer is that of course we can, there just seems to be a lack of them out there.

I personally doubt that it has anything to do with uninterested authors or less than receptive audiences, but in reality most likely has more to do with that all these titles and positions of authority, in varying degrees to one another, can be summed up under that millenia old word and phrase for a ruler, and that is king.

The title of king is of course one that could be easily translated into many languages or extrapolated from whatever word locals use to call their ruler. The position, and the authority that rests with it, is going to be much the same. Whether a sultan ruling from a palace in India, or an African chief ruling over a great swathe of the Savanna with his warrior armies, the position, power, duties, and authority is going to be very similar to what we would consider a king.

In writing of course this can get cliche to some people, but I tend to disagree simply because of the powers and duties any ruler (no matter what title we give him) will have when it comes to making himself the leader of a pre-industrial (or even post-industrial for that matter) nation. Slapping a fancy made up word on the position is not going to hide the fact that this person is for all intents and purposes, occupying the same position as a medieval European monarch.

This of course should not discourage authors from trying something new and attempting to experiment with the accepted idea of how kings rule and set up authority. Writers should by all means attempt to subvert and play with the tropes we've long accepted as part of the fantasy genre, and we should be seeing people experiment with different political systems and theories for setting up how kingdoms run and govern themselves.

From the Confucian principles that governed Imperial China, to the religious inspiration that justified the rule of the Caliphs across the Middle East, it's important for writers to set their sights on other modes of ruling and how a ruler gets his authority and how a vassal is beholden to him.

While I've heard some authors say that its hard to keep people interested in a character once he becomes king (S.M. Stirling famously saying that it's boring because its all meetings and reports) and that they lose much of the action and drama that could be presented I have to strenuously disagree! In fact in my humble opinion, once a character becomes king and faces the difficulties of ruling it can become a defining moment in a series!

They have to deal with plots, counter plots, swirling alliances and petty grievances, marriage proposals, siring heirs, leading armies in battle, managing the affairs of the kingdom, dodging assassins, and in a fantasy setting this can be offset by some more mystical elements being thrown in! It's sad that some authors seem to miss this. You don't necessarily need a king to be a main character, they can just be secondary characters sitting off to the side advising or hampering the main character.

For instance look at King Elhokar from The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. Elhokar is a young paranoid king who rules a nation mostly in name but still has the power of his office. He is a supporting character to Dalinar (one of the main characters) and at times both helps and hinders Dalinar's actions. He is hardly boring and has a number of fascinating character tics which make him function well and give him a distinct personality.

Then just look at the in depth look at kingship and authority which A Song of Ice and Fire gives to us. We go from kings who are bad to kings who are not so bad in a brief time. The story looks at people who do have power and agency (much like a king would) and shows that despite the fact they still have to deal with petty politics and somewhat mundane matters (Eddard hearing petitions from smallfolk and lesser nobles was a scene which I've heard some people found tedious) but duly demonstrates that showing a man of authority in action shows off his character through how he carries out those actions. Stannis is another good character to show that kings are not all just dull reports and meetings, but people driven by a call to action and a personal sense of justice. Though we haven't seen any POV's from him yet, we have seen his character in action on the Game of Thrones television show which truly helps get a feel for the man and what he does.

In Joshua Johnson's The Cerberus Rebellion we get a POV from the point of view of King Eadric who is the character that starts off the book. Here we see the character of the man who rules the nation. He is far from a boring character and his varied attitudes towards his advisers and vassals is one which frames his interactions with the rest of his realm. We get to see he is a 'big picture' person who looks at the larger issues in his realm while neglecting his vassals smaller needs seeing them as irrelevant to his plans as a whole. This of course is what ends up getting him in hot water.

For another fabulous POV of people who eventually become rulers one need look no further than the Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. There are many characters who are (or become) rulers in their own right and they were some of the most fascinating character arcs I'd ever read.

So personally I think having a ruler as a main character is something that can really be used well in a piece of fiction, whether you are examining the authority and rights of rulers, or simply making them characters in the grand scheme of things its fascinating.

All in all kings are force in fantasy that will be sticking around for quite some time, whether we call them emirs or shogun is a matter of semantics in terms of what force the character represents. They may be heroes, they may be villains but they capture the romantic vision we have of epic fantasy and they do it quite well.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Winter Has Come

Hello again readers. This is more of a general post since due to my workload recently I've lacked any specific major topic to post about. Here though I'm going to outline a few idle thoughts and ideas.

First off of course is that outside a few brief moments of writing a few hundred words here or there, dabbling a bit in world building and updating and editing notes I actually have not written very much recently. Sadly this will probably be a continuing problem until well into December as my exams creep up on me. My biggest problem is not distracting myself with new projects and instead just sticking to one or two that I wish to be concentrating on.

Mostly though, I have been successful at keeping my eye on the prize for two main projects, one of course is Service to the State, which is coming along healthy for a first draft, and another manuscript that has been idle for a while. I'm going to resolve to sit down and finish both first manuscripts when I can while only dabbling in one other side project I have at the moment which may, or may not be a good idea.

Now aside from my other writing woes I'm pleased to announce the first snowfall of the season has arrived! I woke up this morning quite happy to see a white curtain coming down around my home and the new carpet of snow covering the road and cars around me.

I always feel pleased when I see the first snowfall. Mind you, historically this has not been the case.

Most people were always dreading winter when it came as it meant an end to the growing season, a series of shorter days and cold bitter nights. Unlike today with our modern central heating most people would have to have gathered enough firewood during the year and stored it away (hoping to heaven it was all nice and dry) in order to both heat their homes on the long cold winter days, and in order to safely cook their food and enjoy a hot meal.

I personally thank God for the fact I don't live in such a subsistence society or have to worry about not having enough wood for winter, however, I also thank my father for the foresight of having a wood stove in our home. As people should no winter storms can be brutal and cold, burying things under a smothering blanket of snow and snuffing out our wonderful electric lights. And as anyone who lived through the terrible Ice Storm many years back can attest to, modern homes are not well designed to do without central heat.

So personally, I hope to one day live in a home where I can take advantage of the best of both worlds and not have to worry that if my power goes out that I'll freeze or not be able to cook any food.

Winter can be a dark and dreary time. There is a reason why the words of House Stark in a Song of Ice and Fire are "Winter Is Coming", both a clear warning and a pragmatic look ahead for the dangers winter could pose to such a society.

On a related note to that, the superb blog Race for the Iron Throne has finally come to what I consider the 'turning point' of a Game of Thrones where the War of the Five Kings heats up, as well as examining an interesting section of politics in Westeros, most notably the politics of the Northern Houses who are sworn to the Starks.

No doubt the commentary is going to get very interesting as we near the exciting climax of Game of Thrones itself and then set out to the big war aspect of A Clash of Kings.

On an unrelated note about my own blog, most readers have probably seen that the Weekly Word has not continued as hoped. I found that trying to make a weekly serial of random news updates and facts was more difficult than I thought, especially as serializing my blog didn't sit well with me, and seemed to also make the blog posts unappealing.

I've instead decided to simply do little posts like this with my thoughts and ideas, intersposed with random reviews and blog series about certain subjects. It feels like potentially a much better outlet for creativity and random thoughts than anything.

We'll just have to see won't we?

On another, more final, note relating to my blog, I will finally be posting another book review as I've almost finished an exciting book by author Saladin Ahmed, and I can't wait to share my thoughts on the subject, so stay tuned for that. I've also finally seen the movie Pacific Rim and I may potentially be reviewing it here, though I'm leery of doing so as everyone and their dog has done that already!

Well that's all for today readers, look to my coming again at sunset sometime in the next week. I'll be puttering around the web, and of course be hard at work on other things.

Until next time!

Friday, 8 November 2013

A Brief Note on Amazon Ratings

No this isn't an add.

Hello again readers! Here now I bring you a short and humble opinion piece. This piece has everything to do with writing a review of something on Amazon. Now personally I'm no stranger to Amazon reviews and have seen and been seen by many other inhabitants of Amazon. Though I really only browse the book and Kindle section I have noticed some trends.

The first trend I've seen is for people to give either really short positive, or really short negative reviews. This is something I personally abhor. Small barely three sentence reviews tell a casual browser nothing about the book other than that you liked or disliked it. I've seen reviews that are 500 characters that really only said, 'I liked it, the author did a good job' or on the flip side 'I hated it, the author can't write at all'. I'm sure I don't need to elaborate on how unhelpful either of these reviews are.

People who are browsing the review section are generally looking for something just a bit more than tiny snippets of opinion. Most of the highest rated reviews I've read on Amazon have been ones which are at least two full paragraphs of text. They briefly illustrate why a reviewer liked or disliked a novel and explaining what they thought overall about it. Sort of like a brief mini blog review.

On the flip side of all that though, there are people who post entire blog reviews on the review section. Now from a personal perspective I don't mind this nearly as much as other people, I want deep insightful reviews which give me a look into what I'm buying, but some people merely want brief snippets of the good and bad. This is what generally makes me think the 'blog format' review on Amazon is a bad idea. Most people will skip over such long reviews it seems and simply look for shorter, less intense pieces.

These are the two extreme's that I find in the review section on Amazon. So in my own humble opinion I think people ought to try and meet somewhere in the middle.

Shorter, neat and concise reviews giving the straight up honest likes or dislikes (and importantly, reasons)  of a reviewer are best. They are honest and tell people what to expect when reading the book. More importantly they generate lots of either good or bad publicity for a novel, and drawing publicity (in any form) are incredibly important to aspiring writers.

Sadly I myself am guilty of some of these very same things, and I will be working to improve upon them and write detailed, well thought out, and ultimately fair reviews in the future. So look forward to me practicing what I preach, and rightly call me out on it if you see otherwise!

Here is an image of what I consider to be a good review done by myself (unfortunately, yes there is a spelling mistake in it, but I really can't go back and fix it):

So there we go readers! Some Amazon etiquette and a mini-review of a book from me all in one! I dare say that it was a productive post! Take some time to browse my own humble reviews if you like, and remember this little piece of proper discourse on the internet when you next go to write something!

Until next time readers, until next time!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Ender's Game

Hello again readers and welcome to my first post for November. Here I am going to be reviewing and commentating on a hot new film, Ender's Game which is of course based on the work of the same name by author Orson Scott Card.

In this review I'll be speaking on both the film and the controversy surrounding it, of which yes, there is quite a bit.

As an important (I think) aside, I have read neither the book Ender`s Game or any of Card`s other work save for one of his 'how to' books on writing and the book Empire. This isn't something I usually do but I felt that I wanted to see an awesome sci-fi movie and had too many other things on the go to stop and read the novel first.

Without further ado, let's sit back and take a look at Ender's Game!

The film starts out with a brief intro showing the first Formic invasion stating how the invasion had just barely been beaten off and that humanity was unprepared, which cost millions of innocent lives. Now humanity prepares for the next inevitable invasion. In order to win they need to get a commander who can lead them to victory. To that end humanity has established the Battle School where children are brought to train in the art of combat and leadership.

We start off with our title character Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) as he fights another classmate in a scuffle over Ender's crushing defeat of said classmate in a simulation. The fight leaves the classmate bruised battered, and ultimately broken as Ender crushes him so that the bully will never pick on him again.

Little does Ender realize that this is all an elaborate test set up by the commander of Battle School, Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) who is a mentor figure and kingmaker looking for the next great commander to fight that battle against the Formics. For Ender's brutal beat down of the bully, and his justification that he wanted to ensure the bully never picked on him again he is promoted and sent to Battle School.

However, he is separated from his caring and empathetic sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin), and his sociopathic and overtly violent brother Peter. Ender has deep personal issues about which sibling he takes after most, he is terrified of his brother Peter, and loves his sister Valentine more than anyone else in the world. Who he most emulates is a character point the film latches onto really well and garners quite a bit of sympathy for Ender as he struggles with who he really is.

Meanwhile Ender excels in Battle School outperforming his fellow cadets in almost every way, along the way he makes friends with characters such as Bean, Petra (True Grit's, Hailee Steinfeld), Ali, and student antagonist, Bernard. Eventually he preforms so well that he is given command of his own army (Dragon Army) so he can prove his worth in the fighting to come.

I don't want to spoil the plot for those who haven't seen it, or to bore those who already know all the details from the novel. Needless to say the film is excellent in its pacing and how it touches on all the moral issues and the different ethical and personal relationships the characters in the film have.

From addressing the morality of child soldiers (brought up in a wonderful performance by Viola Davis) to the proposed genocide of the Formics in order to ensure they can never harm humanity again, and to the attitude to do what it takes to absolutely win the film touches upon many important issues. I particularly felt the impact of the child soldiers discussion where Colonel Graff begins to care more about the necessity of winning over the morality of what happens to your enemy or the men you train to win. I was also impressed by the view that doing whatever it takes to win isn't necessarily the right thing, even though it may be the practical thing.

Now the film itself was well acted. Harrison Ford was an amazing Colonel Graff and every moment he was on screen was pure gold, and Asa Butterman proved himself as a truly capable actor taking on the role of Ender, I was blown away. I for one was at first worried the producers would subvert Ender's character for Ford's when I first saw the trailer, but thankfully those fears were unfounded and the dialogue and sub-plot between the two was woven into the film quite well giving us the dual perspectives of the trainer and the trainee in an interesting comparison of goals and motives. Ben Kingsley's later role in the film is just fabulous, and despite his late appearance the film is much better off for him being in it. Truly you would have been hard pressed to put a better cast together.

That's not to say none of the actions weren't over the top or just a bit goofy. Some of the actions the director had Butterman undertake were fairly cheesy. His over the top arm gestures at some points were visually distracting and seemed pointless, taking away from the focus of some otherwise dramatic moments. The character of Bonzo also seemed to have a perpetual scowl all the way through the film, but that didn't detract from his characterization, just from the range of emotions he could show.

The supporting cast played their roles wonderfully as well, none of them can be said to have screwed up. Whether it was Breslin as the compassionate sister guiding her little brother, or Steinfeld as the friend and companion to Ender the dialogue and interaction between the characters came off nicely and didn't feel stiff or forced in any way. The reactions and emotions seemed raw and real to me, I was quite pleased when watching them.

One beautiful thing about the film was the amazing diversity the cast offered. Gone is the all white cast of buff space marines, here we have children (boy and girl) from all over the world, of radically different backgrounds. Muslims, black, white, Asian, and Latino, we have a diverse and truly global cast represented on screen. It felt like a united effort by the Earth, Hell the International Fleet's commanding officer (and Graff's superior) is a Middle Eastern man! We even have the wonderful Nonso Anozie as Sergeant Dap, a humorous supporting character for Ender.

Visually I would say the film is nothing special. It establishes all the shots it needs and incorporates the free fall mechanics into scenes (especially the Battle Room setting) well and used just enough CGI to keep the flow smooth and believable. The film won't be winning any awards for breaking new ground in CGI or camera shots but it uses the shots and imagery effectively for what there is.

The film gave us only a small number of locations to see and it worked with the film just taking these areas and running with them, from Ender's home, the Battle Station and the International Fleet outpost, we get just a small series of sets that are all incorporated into the characters daily routines, making them feel that much more real.

The musical score was well done as well. I hate to say nicely simplistic, but they established wonderful tension and atmosphere with a small set of musical cues that ran fabulously from start to finish. I was caught up in the emotion of it all and staggered or stressed by the music in the correct spots and it was used to good effect to set the tone of each scene.

Finally however, I come to the controversy which surrounds this film. Much of the controversy comes from Card's outspoken anti-homosexual and gay marriage attitude, and the fears he might use this film to soapbox those views. Thankfully though those fears proved unfounded. However, many felt they should boycott the film in order to keep Card from obtaining royalties or funds he might get from the ticket sales. This was done to prevent him from reaping the rewards to continue with his 'homophobic agenda'.

Now while Card has said some legitimately nasty things about the homosexual community, and while I personally disagree with those views I will say this; just because the author holds these views does not make it right for people to boycott this work, which contains nothing that reinforces those views. Authors personal opinions and their works can be (and in many cases are) separate from each other. Those who decided to boycott the film just because Card (who had very little control over what went into the film) held these views not only cheapen the hard work of the actors and crew who made this film, but also prove their own ignorance since Card will not be receiving one red cent of the ticket proceeds.

The fact is that yes, Card has said some bad things, but those are also his personal opinion, which as far as my knowledge goes, does not extend into his works, and it certainly comes up not at all in this film. I quote the film's producer Robert Orci "the movie should be judged on its message, and not the personal beliefs of the original author," and I hold the same view.

So I would end this review with a plea to those who might be considering boycotting the film or who currently are to give it a chance. The film isn't about homophobia, hating gays, or demonizing gay marriage. It is a film which is well acted, well put together, and raises some thought provoking moral questions about war, it's consequences, and just what measure a non-human's life holds.

If you'll put away whatever disdain you have for the author of the book, you can go see a fantastic film which doesn't disappoint and stars Harrison Ford once again rocking around in outer space.

Until next time readers!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The War of the Worlds

Well readers I recently heard the CBC's presentation of the classic H.G Wells radio broadcast, War of the Worlds. I have to say that despite the medium of the message being the radio and the spoken word, it was thrilling! Contrary to flashy images on the screen, chiseled actors portraying grim heroes and big CGI budgets giving me a towering Martian tripod to stare at, my imagination proved to be a far more tantalizing mode for seeing the Martian invasion of the United States.

The narration, sound effects, and back and forth mode of depicting and showing the Martian attacks and landings in a narrative was fabulous! I could see B-17 bombers flying a doomed sortie at the Martian walkers, sat in horrified wonder as the brave artillery troops shot vainly at the advancing Martian war machines, felt the panic of the forlorn news caster in New York as the tripods arrived and the 'Black Smoke' descended upon the city choking thousands to death.

The vintage feel of the preformance didn't matter to me and made it all the more exciting! For a Halloween presentation I don't think you could have found something better! It was a wonderful treat to have on this pre-Halloween evening.

I can only imagine the shock and confusion some poor Americans must have felt when this first came over the radio and all the calls local police and civil service stations must have received as annoyed/panicked people called in to see if it was real or not!

This is a great historic repeat of the original broadcast long ago on October 30th 1938, made in a less jovial atmosphere as fears of a new war across the world spread, fears that would sadly be proven right. It was a scary thing for a new generation fueled by a new media source in the form of the radio.

I'm quite glad to have been able to listen to it and very pleased to have seen so many other versions of it, but I am even more pleased to say; now I've heard everything too!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Ottawa Geekcon 2013

Well readers other than being busy with school work and general research for my own pleasure I did manage to do one other thing which was a barrel of fun recently. That was going to visit Ottawa Geekcon at Carleton University the weekend before last.

While there I saw a number of amusing geek icons, got my photo taken with a Dalek, and picked up some awesome paraphernalia of fandom.

Shockingly this is actually my first fan convention activity. This partially due to a) living outside the United States and away from many of the best fan conventions like Dragoncon and Comicon, and b) having had a work schedule overlap with every Comicon and event held in Toronto for a solid five years.

So this being my first time being exposed to the larger fandom of the land (well more specifically the Ottawa area) I have to say it was an awesome time! Just seeing how many people close to me (and even amongst my friends) was incredibly uplifting since I have actually never seen first hand such a colorful and vibrant outpouring of fan love!

The booths all stocked great merchandise and wonderful items, not to mention a great array of fellow fans all engrossed in the same things I was seeing. To say it was just a fellowship of friends is like saying the Serenity is crewed only by acquaintances! It was a gathering of believers really! It felt so engrossed and accepted it was marvelous! I'm glad that I went and sincerely wish to repeat the experience!

Myself and my Dalek buddy.

My new companion

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Cerberus Rebellion

Well it's time for that long promised review. Now here I am going to reviewing another Kindle novel I purchased, and it's not just another short story either. No this work is full fledged novella comprising a whole cast of delightful characters and awesome battles, all revolving around a growing trend in modern fantasy, the idea of gun powder fantasy.

As a short aside so readers will understand, gunpowder fantasy is a fantasy setting which features gunpowder weapons, ranging from flintlocks to full fledged firearms. Much like Brandon Sanderson's Alloy of Law, Stephen King's Dark Tower series or  Brian McClellan's A Promise of Blood. However some books only feature guns to help differentiate them from epic fantasy, gunpowder fantasy is revolved around fitting magic into an advanced setting outside the middle ages. The Cerberus Rebellion by Joshua Johnson does just that.


The world of the Cerberus Rebellion is an interesting one, the Kingdom of Ansgar is ruled by a paranoid and brooding king, Eadric Garrard, who sees the rise of the Chisean Empire across the seas as a potential future threat to his own realm. Egged on by foreign diplomats and by his own advisers he decides to martial his armies and intervene in the conflict across the Vast Sea and safeguard his realm.

However, Eadric is not a well loved king, and not all his subjects are as eager to go to war as he. Then we have Magnus Jarmann, ruler of Kerberos, once a sovereign nation, now under the heel of the Asangari occupation. He is eager to win his realm's independence back, all he has to do is wait for the right moment. Finally we have Lord Raedan Clive, Baron of the Broken Plains who is a warrior first and foremost, a politician second.

This delightful cast of diverse main characters, each with competing interests and ideas, sets us up for a thrill ride through politics and war.

There are of course plenty of fun secondary characters in the series, like Raedan's brother Hadrian, and the king's advisers who all color the events of the novel depending on their own outlook. They serve as wonderful supporting characters who fill in the dynamics of the story and serve as windows into the upper crust of the world.

The story itself is not slow at all. From the get go we see things moving both militarily and politically. What helps this along of course is that it is in a setting where you don't rely on just men on horseback but telegrams and railroads which all speed along the important messages and allow for very little lag time. Here I have to applaud Johnson for his skillful mix of court intrigue and politics with the practical and often harsh realities of early industrial war and the nitty gritty of the battle field.

The resulting combination is something akin to Game of Thrones meets Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series.

It's an interesting world with politics that are distinctly feudal in their application (for instance landed aristocracy still holds an enormous amount of power compared to our world in a similar time) and one which is clearly influenced by such. It combines the appendages of a modern and centralized state with those of a late medieval one where the king controls all the armories with the best weapons and artillery, but the aristocracy can still call on a powerful military levy of its own.

It's even reflected brilliantly in some of the battle scenes! There is no national uniform for any of the armies so the infantry marches to war in their house colors, which causes immense confusion and disorder on the battlefield (similar to our own histories Napoleonic Wars with soldiers lack of standard uniforms leading to friendly fire incidents) and is something the characters comment on more than once.

Think this, only just a bit more confusing.

It's also a sort of fascinating look into a society where a medieval style of command and control still reigns with titles of aristocracy such as 'Knight Commander' sitting in the chain of command alongside more familiar ones like lieutenant and major. The lack of a true unified command structure in most cases too makes for some rather interesting, and in one or two cases unfortunate, situations.

The battles of course are superbly done with little confusion from the point of view of the characters, and we get what is, in my opinion, a good vague outline of the actual battlefield and course of the battle itself while dealing with what only the character on the ground sees and then once the battle is done do we see the full scope of the action and what has happened. From a narrative perspective it makes things more thrilling and tense as the characters don't fully grasp how they are affected in the thick of it, yet they tend to make great leaps and advances.

Of course they are not military fools and at a few points characters make great leaps which change the course of battle thanks to good foresight and clever maneuvering of their forces.

Now one criticism I would have is that of the roughly six battles we see in the book only two are presented in great detail to the end. Sometimes the author forms a wonderful and suspenseful buildup to a turning point in the battle, only for us to miss it completely and have the narrative skip straight to the aftermath. While it was a bit of a suspense killer it did hasten the events of the novel along and I won't say the story suffered greatly for it.

The character interaction too is fun and educational, giving us details about the world these characters live in. The sub-plot focusing around the potential marriage of Raedan in order to sire an heir and cement his claim the Broken Plains is fun and quite amusing since it shows off Raedan's personal strengths and weaknesses, alongside his magical abilities.

Another thing I would like to congratulate the author on is his inclusion of elves in the story without making it feel cliched or shoe-horned in to fit the necessary fantasy mold. The elves seem to be perfectly natural in the world and they insert themselves as individual characters and personalities alongside their human counterparts with their long lived and magical nature filling an important niche in noble politics.

The inclusion of magic too was well done, though at times it did seem like a secondary focus of the plot, but it played an important role in Raedan's story arc. The way magic is handled was interesting to me, especially how it plays into the nature of griffons and how one controls them.

All in all the book is a wonderful read with a climax which leaves you begging for more. Johnson shows off his stuff as a writer with great promise leaving us with a fascinating new fantasy world to explore. I say the book is worth a read as it is a nice long read at a very affordable price. I would say that you could do well to part with three dollars for more than three hours of entertainment.

On a related note Johnson has a wonderful website where he posts about his world, industrial fantasy in general, and updates on his writing projects. He also has a myriad of short stories available on Amazon. This is his Facebook page, if anything here has intrigued you, check him out!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

The Weekly Word #7

Well this will be a short Weekly Word readers, really only two things have happened this week worth great notice, along with a few interesting things on the web.

In international news, the American government has shut down after failing to reach an agreement on the details of expanding Medicare and all 'non-essential' government services have been shut down. This of course has spawned various debates on whose fault the shutdown is, when an agreement will be reached, whether Obama is a weak president for allowing this to happen, and of course, a loss of faith in the system by some.

Of course this also isn't the only time in recent memory the government has been shut down. In fact back in the 90s the Clinton administration suffered the same problem over near the exact same issue. The only good thing about that is that it was after the limit to raise the debt ceiling had been passed.

Now though, just like back in 2011, the US faces yet another game of brinkmanship over the raising of the debt ceiling in which the very real threat of the US defaulting on its loans rears its ugly head. Now if he really has to Obama can use his executive powers to force the raising of the ceiling, but if he somehow fails to do that then the resulting catastrophe would make the recession of 2008 look tame in comparison.

In other sad news Tom Clancy has passed away at the age of 66 this week. He was the father of the modern techno-thriller as we know it and he was really a brilliant man in many of his insights into military technology. In fact he once got in hot water for merely guessing what a US submarine would operate like (inadvertently guessing top-secret knowledge at the time!).

His books have made a number of best-selling movies, from The Hunt for Red October, to Sum of All Fears, and one of my personal favorite books for its sheer beautiful insight and techno-thrilling genius, Red Storm Rising, which alongside Red Army by Ralph Peters is one of the most amazing insights into the potential ground war between the Warsaw Pact and NATO and makes for an amazing read.

I simply hope we can find writers of his caliber to fill the void of the techno-thriller genre in the future.

In other news from around the web Korsgaard has done a wonderful review of the new film, Gravity which people really ought to check out. He really sells the film in this review, and he has decided for me the next film I am going to see!

In other-other news I have begun reading Steven Attewell's simply phenomenal Song of Ice and Fire political/story analysis blog,  Race for the Iron Throne. It's an amazing blog which seeks to do a chapter by chapter analysis of the entire series examining the political and cultural ideas that George R.R. Martin introduces to his world. He really digs into the series and helps show off some of the considerable world building Martin has done in creating Westeros and the Seven Kingdoms, comparing our history and Westeros and looking at the medieval world in which the characters reside.

It also appeals to me as a lover of the alternate history genre as it highlights the 'What if?' questions that A Song of Ice and Fire offers in abundance that really brings the world alive. In nearly every chapter we find details of how if even certain little events had changed they would have effected the outcome and trajectory of the story immensely! It's the little things like that which make the world so believable as well as spark literally hundreds of fan fictions putting forward different POD's for how the whole series could have gone differently!

Currently he's a little over halfway through A Game of Thrones so this project is going to be ongoing for many years if he does as detailed an analysis of every book as he does this one. Don't be too rough on him though, even if he did one chapter a week it would still take over a year for him to get through the first book!

I encourage readers who like that series, or even just history in general, to read his blog and support the project, it's truly a gargantuan undertaking!

Well that's all for this week readers! Stay tuned for my upcoming review!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Weekly Word #6

Oh ye of little faith, here comes the Weekly Word number 6!

My slow writing aside, due to school and other things out there, I have got some wonderful tidbits in store for everyone this week. After two weeks of rather depressing news going around this time I have some great pop-culture links to share!

First and fore mostly I would like to again (if you followed me on Facebook you would already know) share the news that Firefly will be continued in comic format by Dark Horse comics! Yes over a decade of waiting has paid off for the erstwhile Browncoat fans who have eagerly awaited the day when the series would continue in some form or another, but now the wait is over!

Here is an article detailing this wonderful new turn of events.

Now of course some will be disappointed since it is not live action, and of course that the film Serenity is canon so some of your favorite characters are still six feet under. I for one am tentatively excited by this turn of events, mostly because numerous fan fics and fan theories have been floating around for years! Finally though we may get some long awaited closure from our favorite sci-fi series.

Though speaking of Firefly, and of course one of my favorite actors Nathan Fillion, I am also happy to say that the sixth season of Castle premiered last night and we finally found out the answer to the burning cliff hanger we were left with over the summer months! Only to be given a new burning cliff hanger to start the series off! We will have to find out what happens next Monday and how the saga of one of the best police partnerships on TV continues!

In other news the new trailer for Robocop is out. We are seeing a whole new version of the franchise with this re-boot and one this is extraordinary in its look at the Robocop world, though according to Cracked it seems to be a little simplistic in it's set up.

Though of course we'll just have to wait and see won't we?

But here is the new trailer for your viewing pleasure!

In other, just as cheery news, it seems the horrible sensation which has been the Atlas Shrugged film trilogy is so desperate they have been forced to go to Kickstarter in order to obtain the funds to finish off a trilogy so bad the books fans don't even like it! Last year I talked about Part II of the terrible trilogy and commented on how this part seemed competently strung together, unlike the first film.

However, many people who have seen the film (well the two I know of) have panned it as being awful, just awful. In a delicious irony the free market agrees and finds the disgusting ideology the film champions unpalatable. This of course sticks in the craw of many of the ideologies most ardent defenders who insist it is a good film and is a wonderful parable of our times.

The remaining 99.99 percent of humanity disagrees.

In their effort to keep ideological purity alive for this sad series the producers have gone to kickstarters with a modest goal to reach of a quarter of a million dollars, and has made a respectable 96,000 so far. Seems to have some rich backers with plenty of cash to throw around for sure. Though I'm sure that like the rest of the films it will flop spectacularly, and it may even end up driving the makers into debt.

It seems the film is to be recast, again, as they have either let the actors go, or the actors have quit. It is admirable that the producers decide to keep going really. The producers have also thanked those who have hated on the movie for helping generate publicity, firmly believing that even bad publicity is good publicity. Unless it of course means that no one will watch your movie of course!

While I salute their commitment to their ideological goal I will of course disparage the series and ideology until the day I die.

On the plus side if the world ends the 1000+ page book makes great kindling or toilet paper!

Well that's my rant for this week readers! Until next time!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Weekly Word #5

Well readers I'm afraid this will be an unusually quick weekly word. I will be off from making blog posts this week, but once I return I have two blog posts to make. Then of course more following.

Well of course the biggest news so far this week comes as President Obama promises firm action on the Syria issue. However, only today he has put that military strike on hold. This will of course lead to anger on both sides of the aisle as people blame him for being to wishy washy when it comes to dealing with a regime which has blatantly used chemical weapons to slaughter people.

Of course this also comes after a Russian initiative to get Syria's weapons turned over for safe-keeping seems to be gaining ground though. How much do I buy the idea of Syria turning over its weapons? I can actually see them allowing most of their stockpile to be taken into (most likely Russian) custody. However, I sincerely doubt they will actually allow their facilities which make chemical weapons to be destroyed.

Only time will tell.

Of course today we commemorate today another great tragedy and atrocity, that of the 9/11 Attacks on the United States.

Twelve years ago today, over 2,000 people lost their lives in a senseless act of violence perpetrated by villains in an attempt to terrorize the people of America and the world. It didn't work of course, and now all the men who perpetrated it, planned it, and their ringleader lay slain from the ensuing conflict.

Argue about the outcome if you will, but never forget the people who died. May they rest in peace.

In more local news I have recently been reading about the Quebec Charter of Values. It seems the government of Quebec would like to see what they can get away with, or flagrantly violate my countries constitution.

The Quebec 'Charter of Values' to quote the CTV article:

The so-called "values charter" announced by the government would impose broad restrictions, unique in North America, on religious clothing for employees in all public sector institutions including schools, hospitals and courts.
While the cross above Montreal's Mount Royal and the crucifix in the legislature are OK because they are considered part of the province's heritage, government employees wearing a crucifix would have to conceal it. Religious headgear such as hijabs, burkas, kippas, veils and turbans would also be forbidden.

This is of course something that outrages many religious minorities, who rightly view it as discrimination against themselves. They see the Charter as nothing less than an attack on their identity and as a series of laws designed to forcefully secularize them where they work.

The Quebec government for its part views it as a good thing as it would 'defuse religious tensions' and of course forbid the wearing of certain items in government and public buildings.

The items in question
Speaking as someone who normally doesn't wear religious iconography on his person, I still find this offensive. It is offensive to think that people aren't reasonable enough, after having lived for years now beside people who routinely wear these types of items, to stand seeing them in plain view. It is offensive to think that you can just forcefully secularize people against their will for no good reason. It is finally offensive to infringe on someones religious beliefs due to the chance that some intolerant person might be dismayed by seeing a woman in a hijab.

I did an article a while ago about 'freedom from religion' and that seems to be just what the current government of Quebec is trying to do. I'm sorry Quebec but a secular society simply keeps government and religion from mixing, not actively trying to subtly force everyone with religious ideas from the government.

My sincere hope is that the supreme court will strike this down for the lunacy that it is. God help Canada, God help Quebec.

Until next time readers, until next time!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Weekly Word #4

Despite the again erroneous title I again bring you my weekly word!

First off I address the issue on everyone's mind, Syria. Well ladies and gentlemen it seems like things are getting worse in the region, with the civil war spiraling out of control and foreign intervention being either a pipe dream or a terrifying possibility according to the pundits.

The idea of intervention though is something that must weight heavily on the consciences of world leaders in the West. They missed their chance to support the only secular, and non-terrorist affiliated group in the region back in 2011, only to watch as the revolution was hijacked by a better armed and better funded Al-Qaeda offshoot with ties to our supposed allies in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Now though, Assad has crossed the line which was set by using chemical weapons. The time has (theoretically) come for the Western world to intervene and say loud and clear that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.

However, Western opinion seems divided on that, and I can understand why. Let us take a look at what the possible outcomes are in Syria. The first is for the Assad regime to completely win the civil war and stay in power. There will of course be reprisals, crackdowns, and a tightened security state. However, the balance of power in the region will not be adversely affected (save Russia's growing influence) and another dictator will have stood up to the West. A terrible option for the Syrian people, but no worse than that they face right now.

In the next scenario we have a definite victory by the Al-Nursa Front and its allies. Then we have a secure base of operations for militants which could further destabilize the region, give a foreign terrorist organization access to chemical weapons, reach in the Mediterranean, and a major source of arms and supplies. This would most likely come back to bite the West in the behind in a big way.

The Third scenario is for the Free Syrian Army to win and establish a semi-stable state which could be a boon or a hindrance to the region. It would probably end up like Libya with internal difficulties, and many religious militias refusing to answer to the government (as well as the unsettling question of the Kurdish population). The worst case scenario for an FSA victory is for the fighting to merely continue and devastate the region further still in an Afghanistan style civil war.

Now these are all merely speculations, and if the war goes on much longer it may begin to seriously unsettle the entire region. However, how the West reacts will determine how the conflict is played out. If the West strikes at Assad's military power bases and weakens him it will prolong the war, if it directly helps the rebels (who may or may not be friendly to the US) it invites the victory of a potential enemy, and if it does nothing, then it is still up in the air.

The West is also limited in its ability to respond by Assad's threats to unleash chemical weapons on the region if he suspects regime change is the attempted American goal. This leads merely to a number of bad and worse decisions which will probably not give the West an edge in the conflict. Meanwhile it grinds inexorably on.

Meanwhile in the news we have two bright spots with a pair of infamous mass murderers getting their sentences passed down recently. Nidal Malik Hassan and Robert Bales were sentenced to death and life in prison respectively.

Hassan was the perpetrator of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting where he gunned down 12 soldiers and one civilian in a Jihadist influenced rampage in order to 'stop US soldiers from going to Afghanistan and killing Muslims'. Hassan became sadly proficient with his weapon and got the drop on dozens of unarmed soldiers who were lining up for medical treatment. He was just recently sentenced to death by a military tribunal.

Robert Bales whose crimes I covered here, was also finally justly sentenced for the obvious war crime he committed. I am thankful the American government has seen fit to give him such a harsh sentence (though the death penalty would have been more appropriate) and I am pleased he has been sent to prison for the remainder of his life.

While justice has been served and this weekly word is a bit more gloomy than most I hope that we can see some good news over the horizon in the future readers!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

A Review of Space Marine

Well for the first time on this blog dear readers I will be reviewing a video game! This time I am going to be reviewing the video game, Space Marine!

Now I have written about the idea of Space Marine's and the Games Workshop franchise of Space Marine. Here I'm going to be reviewing the 2011 game of similar name, Space Marine! Set in the grim darkness of the 41st millennium, where there is only war, we are thrust into the hellish landscape that is the Imperium of Man playing as its premier super soldier, the titular space marine. You play as Captain Titus of the Ultramarines Chapter (the poster boys of 40k) following him as he attempts to unleash hell on the xenos enemies of mankind.

The Orks have invaded Forge World Graia, a planet devoted to military production, especially that of the massive war titans which protect mankind. Titus must stop the Ork invasion by any means necessary, even if it means teaming up with some of mankind's more brutal agents in order to do so.

The game is fairly well written plot wise, if pretty simple. You learn to love the dry wit of Sergeant Sidonus, not want to slap young Leandros and hope that poor Lt. Mira and her Guardsmen aren't overrun by the greenskin hordes. There are enough twists and turns in the plot to keep you guessing but it is straightforward with the whole theme of the grim future.

Now on to the important aspect, the game play!

The game is not your average third person shooter game. It instead devotes much of its time to close combat and amply rewards the player for doing so. For instance, the only way to regain lost health in game is to go in and execute an enemy. That really made me want to just wade in and start slaughtering the green menace.

It also gives you lots of wonderful weapons in order to do this. From the simple combat knife to the gargantuan Thunder Hammer you have a vast variety of ways to slice up Orks. You also get coated in gore while doing so and many times Titus's nice blue armor was just covered in a new layer of red!

Each weapon has advantages and disadvantages. The regular weapons allow you to fire your bolter and other weapons in accord or to quickly switch back to larger weapons for long range combat. The large weapons like the Thunder Hammer only allow you to use your bolt pistol since the Thunder Hammer requires two hands to wield and one to hold aside otherwise.

The trade off is fair though since the bolt pistol works just as well as a bolter (with a slower rate of fire) and the Thunder Hammer simply devastates anything in its path from the lowliest boy to the meanest Nob.

That's not to say that shooting is lacking either. The guns you are given are an impressive arsenal of closer quarters weapons, and long range firepower. Each can cut a swathe through Ork hordes with either masses of fire or with sheer explosive power. None of them are lacking but the way the game implements them is.

For a game with focuses so much on close quarters battle, the idea of having enemies who can stand off and blast you is a little jarring. You can answer in kind but I found that longer ranged enemies when employed in great numbers, were a slight game breaker. I could defeat them after one or two tries but being mauled by Orks with cleavers while being ventilated by Orks with guns (or rockets) became a serious issue. The worst part was of course the bomb squigs, which were an instant kill no matter the circumstances. Trust me I haven't let such profanity loose at fictional characters since watching Twilight.

While this doesn't diminish the game in itself, it does present a unique and irritating challenge to the pure flow of game play. While switching between weapons is generally flawless, the sections where one has to use a two handed weapons (or one forgets to switch and has no option of changing it) get absurdly difficult rather quickly and it becomes a series of innovative 'stay alive' ideas until you manage to kill everything in sight.

This doesn't ruin the game, but makes it just a bit more challenging and is hopefully a balance issue they will work out in the sequel.

The fun parts though are when you get to run around with a jump pack and smite your enemies from above. These are well place throughout the game and happily break up the tedium of run, hack/slash, and shoot. A number of other sections with vehicles and fun objects serve the games purpose well.

There are only two moments which could really be called boss fights. They tend to be wave attacks until you can smash at the tougher than normal boss. They're pretty fun but I have to say the final boss battle is rather anti-climactic.

That aside though this really is a wonderful game! It's well balanced, has no bug issues, and plays really well. Though many hardcore 40k fans disliked it I have to say they have no clue what they're missing! It plays well and is a barrel of fun, its also reasonable short with a campaign that can't be over a good 20 hours of game play.

All in all I say you ought to pick it up and try it out. So go, enjoy a romp in the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Weekly Word #3

Though the title here is a bit inaccurate (I am insanely behind scheduel) and I apologize, I promise in the coming weeks I shall make up for my tardiness with many a blog post!

I suppose though I ought to get this quickfix out of the way and on with something of more substance though eh?

Now of course as everyone ought to know, Canada has a new future monarch in the form of the young Prince George (I actually had the name right btw) and he is such a cute little baby prince! Hopefully he will someday sweep another common girl off her feet and continue what seems to be a good pattern amongst the monarchy and bring in some fresh blood and establish a strong tie with the people.

He's also adorable

Many people of course took the opportunity of the hype surrounding the royal baby to bring out their rabid hatred of the royal family whether they had a legitimate point or not. I am a firm supporter of the monarchy and since many of the people who hate them seem to think that the royal family's biggest sin is either a) being a royal or b) being wealthy I can't stand the uninformed and idiotic criticism. Much of it is also hypocritical in my opinion since I saw far fewer people complaining over the media circus which was the birth of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's daughter, North West.

Long live the Queen and hail to the new born prince I say!

In other less happy news, it seems that the military take over of Egypt is going nowhere. Mind you the Muslim Brotherhood wasn't exactly a bastion of democracy and liberal values, and Morsi probably deserved to go. My greatest criticism of the military is for their brutal crackdown and rather ugly handling of the protests which have been dispersed with liberal ammounts of tear gas and bullets.

This in many ways though is like the French Revolution, there was no real power structure ready to take the place of the monarchy in France when they overthrew the king, and likewise when the protestors topples Mubarak the only group which had the political apparatus and popular support in place was the Muslim Brotherhood, who much like the National Assembly proved unpopular and were consequently overthrown. We can only hope that the military government in Egypt however, turns out nothing like the French Committee of Public Safety.

In news from around the internet and popular media I am pleased to announce that the first trailer for the new film 47 Ronin is out. Though I was a little disapointed it would not be the historical thriller about the true forty-seven ronin I had been expecting, I will admit the film looks to be the Japanese version of 300, and that could be something. It seems like it is worth watching, but here look at the trailer and decide for yourself.

Speaking of 300, the sequel, Rise of Empire continues to astound us with a lovely parade of teaser trailers which merely make me want to see it more. See for yourself!

In other news Matthew Quinn is releasing a slew of short stories right now. I've just finished his most recent story in the Afrikaner verse, Picking up Plans in Palma which I will be reviewing soon. It is a wonderful espionage thriller. Taking place in a world where a hyper-Calvinist South African federation/theocracy faces off in a cold war between a larger US it details one agents plan to pick up where his predecessor failed to obtain battle plans for a new orbital space station mounting space planes and kinetic weapons.

Its a fun read and a great universe with a fascinating alternate history!!

The World in question.

Combined with that he is doing a series of short stories centering around the ubermenshe Andrew Patel. I have yet to read these stories but I would recommend picking them up for sure! His writing was already wonderful, and thus far it is only improving.

As a final note I would like to share something my fellow blogger Korsgaard has also shared. There is an attempt ongoing right now to create a mini-series on kickstarter called The Confederation. The series deals with the question 'What if the Confederacy had won the Civil War?' Now this is of course one of the most often asked and contentious questions asked in alternate history, it is an interesting answer this project provides.

In this scenario the Confederacy is bogged down in a brutal Vietnam-esque occupation of Cuba and is fighting a guerilla war to keep a hold on the island. It follows a group of female snipers (showing the Confederation is really pressed for manpower) and former slaves as they tromp across the island in a savage war for control of the land.

It is an interesting take on a war series and an awesome bit of alternate history, I sincerely hope it gets off the ground.

This is a link to their Facebook page and website. It doesn't seem to have the support they need so I would ask that people please look into it.

Though I must note they seem to be going through some trouble right now so the project may simply be on hold. Only time will tell though.


Well readers this caps up the 'Weekly' Word #3. I have some new posts coming up, and God willing I will keep up with the Weekly word scheduel now! Thank you for your patience and please keep on reading!