Horns by Joe Hill – Book Review

Cool Fact: The UK edition even has a quote in the front from our very own James Long!

Cool Fact: The UK edition has a quote inside the front cover from our very own James Long!

I’ve had a signed copy of this book for a year now and have been meaning to read it, only to be told by a friend that it features A LOT of snakes. Naturally, I screamed, dropped it and ran a mile.

Now, the film’s coming out at the end of this month and I really want to see it as I’m a huge fan of Joe’s, so I thought I’d grow a pair and finally give it a go (and, of course, sit in a well lit room, rocking back and forth, crying, after each passage with the snakes shivers).

So, what’s it about?

Ignatius Perrish wakes up after a night of heavy drinking (and urinating on a statue of the Virgin Mary at his dead girlfriend’s memorial site) to find he’s grown horns. Apparently this is unusual – I wouldn’t know, I don’t drink! – Ig freaks out, but other people don’t seem to react to the horns in any way. Quite the opposite happens, actually, they start to tell him their deepest, darkest desires. I especially like the bit where one guy admits that he likes to wear his mother’s underpants and get “good and hot.”

Not only do people tell Ig everything he doesn’t want to know, the moment he touches them, Ig falls into the person’s mind and sees their deepest secrets. Which is… awesome? Maybe? Uhh, no, no it really isn’t.

After a few of these encounters, Ig naturally doesn’t want to be around people. However, after an accidental confrontation with older brother Terry, Ig is set on the path to discover who really murdered his girlfriend Merrin. And boy, does it turn out to be one hell of a journey. Continue reading

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Fighting Fantasy Fest 2014

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Zagor the Warlock was more welcoming than he is in the gamebooks…

Back in 2012, the author Jonathan Green had the fantastic idea of writing a book about Fighting Fantasy – the 1980s literary phenomenon that captivated millions of young readers, introducing them to a world of magic, monsters and adventure, where THEY were the hero of the story.

The enduring popularity of Fighting Fantasy meant that Jonathan’s book – You Are the Hero – easily passed its Kickstarter target. Eighteen months later and the end result is a simply glorious book that is the definitive history of these iconic gamebooks and the writers, artists and editors that played crucial roles in their huge success.

A direct offshoot of this project – and another great idea of Jonathan’s – was to launch the book with a one-day convention celebrating Fighting Fantasy. And so Fighting Fantasy Fest was born.

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Original Fighting Fantasy artwork on display – the central image is the classic cover featuring the Bloodbeast from Deathtrap Dungeon

Being a huge fan of Fighting Fantasy (and appreciative of the massive impact it’s had on my life) there was no way I was going to miss this opportunity to meet fellow fans, marvel at some of the memorabilia, and – most excitingly of all – meet Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone: the two men who started it all back in the early 1980s.

So, hefting a bag of books that I hoped to have signed, and channelling my inner thirteen-year-old, I made the trip across London to the Hilton Hotel in Ealing where the day was due to unfold. Paul – intrigued and amused in equal measure by my fanboy giddiness – came along for the ride. Continue reading

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Osiris by E.J. Swift

osiris-uk-cover-finalThere is a common misconception that sci-fi writers write about the future. Not so. The future so quickly catches yesterday’s predictions (jetpacks excepted) that writers struggle to keep up. I can hear it taunting us, saying, ‘is that what you call imagination?’ whilst it picks tinder from between its teeth and farts wheels on to our suitcases. As I rise the escalator in the Orwellian nightmare that is Euston station looking at posters of the latest aircraft carrier, ‘for a great nation’, to the tannoy leitmotif of every Londoner, ‘for your safety CCTV is in operation’, I don’t envy the sci-fi writer. The future became a parody of itself and then some. There was only one place to turn, total apocalypse.

To judge a sci-fi books ability to predict the future is to err (perhaps 1984 excepted). But even 1984 captured a contemporary whisper which it expressed in extremis. Good sci-fi illuminates the present. It is a succinct allegory for our times. And it is to this metric (amongst others including quality of prose and depth of characterisation) that I judge the Osiris Project.

Where were we? Total apocalypse.

EmmaSwiftTotal apocalypse severs the link between our world and the world being written about. The latter is no longer an exaggeration of the former, but its own entity. E.J. Swift goes one step further and builds a world in the sea in order to further remove it from any point of interfering reference. The author strikes a balance between description and trust in the reader’s imagination which makes for some vivid imagery. In my mind I pictured something between the crumbling into the sea cities in the movie Inception and the seascape of Waterworld (the one with Kevin Costner).

Continue reading

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Top 5 most eXcellent X-Men over on Pornokitsch

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Well, what can I say except, it’s been a while.

….And that’s all I’m saying on the matter.

But what better way to kick things off again than with a post about the X-men! Okay, okay, it’s not my post but I’m in it as those fine folks at Pornokitch have another of their ever fabulous Friday Fives articles. This week the theme is ‘Most Excellent X-Person’.

I still can’t believe that out of all the hundreds of X-men there is, three of us picked the same one to be in our Top Five and I PROMISE you won’t be expecting who it is…

Below you can find the first three of my top five X-men but for the rest you’ll have to head on over to Pornokitsch for the full list of TWENTY awesome X-people as chosen by eXperts (self-appointed and completely uncredited experts) in all things comic books.

PolarisPolaris: Everyone talks about how cool Magneto is – Oooh look he can bend spoons, he’s like Marvel’s very own Uri Gellar – and Polaris often gets forgotten but she’s so much cooler than old Maggie. First of all she has the same ability to control metal but she can also have super strength, she’s been the leader of X-factor (which is the grittier younger brother of the X-Men) and did I mention her green hair? Polaris is one of the only characters in comics who can pull off hulked-out hair (hang your emerald head in shame Doc Sampson).

NightcrawlerNightcrawler: The face of a demon and the soul of an angel,  Nightcrawler is the true heart of the X-Men. Everyone adores a swashbuckler and a magician and Nightcrawler’s both as he’s adept with sabres and with his powers of teleportation he can BAMF out of sight in puff of smoke. The only downside is this smoke smells of sulphur (actually it’s a gas from the pocket universe but we can talk about this another time) which means every time he uses his power he effectively drops a rotter… Continue reading

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Thor: The Dark World – Film Review (spoiler – free!)

thor_lead_1As mentioned in my October highlights I’m a big fan of the original Thor for managing to make a magic rainbow bridge look cool. Thor: The Dark World keeps the Norse charm flowing while new director, Alan Taylor (notably of Game of Thrones fame) successfully manages to propel the franchise into a darker SF movie while keeping the laughs that made us love the celestial hunk.

Thor: The Dark World begins post clean-up in the aftermath of Avengers Assemble and Loki is safely imprisoned back on Asgard. Thor is busy restoring peace within the Nine Realms but worst is on the way in the guise of a new all-powerful energy, the Aether and ancient enemy, the Dark Elves determined to harness its power and lead the realms into darkness.

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For a movie with Elves and several Gods, the visual direction isn’t akin to other marvel movies and more similar to serious SF, most prominently reminding me of Prometheus (I apologise for comparing a decent movie to Prometheus). Even the scenes in London – with Jane Foster and her ever-increasing amount of interns – are dark and ominous. OK. London is always dark and ominous but you get the idea.

It’s a very hectic film and risks packing too much into two hours but it’s fast and funny and delivers what a good sequel should – developing the franchise story arch and characters. Thor has gone from obnoxious “fish out of water” to model son. Jane Foster is back and slightly more interesting with Portman actually managing to infuse some personality into the character. Unfortunately, still not enough for anyone to understand how both she and Thor are even remotely in love. Luckily Portman comes with intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) who is brilliant and on even stronger form this time round. I love Kat Dennings – she is comic genius!

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Of course, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki steals the show making Thor look like a two dimensional hero from a children’s picture book. His ability to be malevolent with boyish vulnerability and charming with such vile cynicism is superb. And if you want a compelling love story in this movie it is the brotherly bond between Loki and Thor as opposed to Jane and Thor’s romance.

74779Sadly, focusing on trickster Loki clearly took away needed emphasis and timeline from the movies true villains, the Dark Elves. Particularly antagonist, Malekith, played by Chris Ecclestone seems shamefully under developed considering the quality of actor. Under all that make up and lack of screen time any interest in Malekith’s back story or intention is completely lost. That being said I would never recommend giving Loki less time… In fact, I would rather recommend more Loki screen time!

Marvel are having a good run of movies recently that combine huge action with comic value and Thor 2 is no different. If the post-credits stings are anything to go by, hopefully the third instalment should be just as good (with more Loki!).

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Where’s The Zombies By Paul Moran – Book Review

Where’s Wally with Zombies – How can it go wrong? IT CAN’T. And there’s so much right!

I spent a lot of my childhood with puzzle picture books – I’m a big fan of Where’s Wally and I remember constantly rereading the Usborne Young Puzzle Adventure series; Puzzle Mountain, Puzzle Town and Puzzle Island (where Sam Swashbuckle is hunting for hidden treasure on a puzzle packed treasure island). For this reason, I had heaps of fun revisiting my youth with a puzzle book inclusive of a Parental Advisory Gruesome Scenes Warning.wheres_the_zombies

Where’s The Zombies is 48 pages of full colour illustrations that are comic value mixed with pure gore as you hunt for the “patient zero” family of living dead among the anarchy of the zombie apocalypse.

A science experiment goes horribly wrong (shocker) and Scientist, Joel Peters becomes infected bringing the transmittable joy home to share with his family. The new strain of ZX-5 virus is highly contagious and it vital that the entire family are found and contained before the disease spreads any further. The family you are scouring each page for includes mum and dad, grandma and granddad, some creepy twins, the cheerleader sister, skater brother and zombie dog and cat.

It’s not as easy you would think scouring for ten individual zombies and an additional ten medical kits. In fact when they are deliberately hidden behind beheaded, festering corpses some un-PG words might have been used trying to find them! The book gets better as the apocalypse escalates and anarchy on the streets ensues. The white house is over run, vigilantes take matters into their own hands and the military take the usual attitude and gun down everything in sight. The attack on Lightening Science Laboratories is my favourite page. It’s a horror scene even without the zombies – macabre experiments and man-animal hybrids loose of their cages! Gruesome delights wait every page turn, decapitating alligators, power drills to the brain and flame throwers cooking human shish kebabs. There’s also an unfortunate dog attack to the groin.

Once you reach the end, the results are given and you get lots more objects to go back and find including such extras as “zombie superhero” and “a delicious green brain”.

It’s not my usual book review but I had a really good time putting the 18+ factor on a childhood favourite. It’s a bit like adding vodka to jelly… but in literary form!

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