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Four Fantasies: Fire Boy, The Brazen Gambit, The Never King and A Stranger at the Wedding

Fire BoyFantasy time! Not, like 'the Royals come back to win the division and the Series' fantasy, we're talking about the more realistic stuff - with jinn, dragons, and, er, weddings.

Four recent reads, showing the breadth, depth and wonderful weirdness that can be found on the fantasy shelves.

Sami Shah's Fire Boy (2017). An early - or not so early - book of the year pick. To slap some labels on it, Fire Boy is a YA, edgy American Gods, but then, none of that is particularly accurate. Wahid is a weird kid, growing up in Karachi. He was a sick child and now he's a gormless teenage. But he's got some fun friends, a loving family, and a future that's more or less bright.

Then things go horribly, terribly wrong. Wahid starts seeing things that aren't there. There's crazy assassin is after him. Oh, and he's in a horrible car wreck. Suddenly he's gone from secure and self-absorbed to a life on the run, with everything taken from him. His search for answers takes him to some very strange, and not entirely earthly, places. Fire Boy has all the classic elements of Chosen One-ness and Portal Fantasy: Wahid's a gawky, geeky everyman with a good heart and a lot of potential. But there's also a shockingly edgy overlay - this isn't a book that pulls its punches, and manages to be truly shocking and surprising as the one twist leads to another. Karachi itself comes to life, as Shah brings its sprawl and the splendour to the page, effortlessly weaving in the city's mythology.

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"The Tingler" (1959)

The Tingler

Thoughts Before Watching

So again, "The Tingler" is not a radio drama and again, I am excited as FUCK to watch this. Maybe it’s the title? And the fact that it’s in black and white? And the possibility that this could be anything, like ANYTHING and here we are, toes curled on the edge of this thing that could literally be ANYTHING. It could be the best thing in the world. Illustrious acquaintance says it could be a piece of poo.

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Velvet: Sex, spies and stereotype

Velvet-comic

I recently saw a trailer for the upcoming film, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, a sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service, a 2014 film based on a comic by Mark Millar and frequent collaborator, Bryan Hitch. Directed by Matthew Vaughn, Kingsman recaptured the over-the-top violence of their earlier collaboration Kick-Ass but was playing in the sandbox of a Bond-style spy-action-thriller.

In fact, the film was essentially a Bond spoof and, while it sought to make a point about class prejudice (although what that was I’m not exactly sure), their approach to women was much more in the vein of having their cake and eating it too. The female characters in Kingsman: The Secret Service are almost entirely sidelined, silent or uncomfortably sexualized. While womanizing has been a part of the Bond-style spy movie since its inception, is it a necessary part?

Well, if you want a spy thriller every bit as Bond as Bond (or Kingsman) but without the uncomfortable sexism, I’d highly recommend Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Velvet (colours by Elizabeth Breitweiser, letters by Chris Eliopoulos).

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"I Eat Your Skin" (1971)

I Eat Your Skin

Thoughts Before Watching

I Eat Your Skin is not a radio drama, it’s a movie but it’s called ‘I Eat Your Skin’ so I feel this is an excellent reason to watch it. I have a very good feeling that this will contain racism, zombies, groovy music and other things which were popular in 1970 and are still popular today.  Very excited obvs.

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Finding Balance in Opposites in Asterios Polyp

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We live in a world today which seems, or is made to seem, more divided than ever. Asterios Polyp is a book about division, but it turns that which divides us into positives, finding balance in opposition and progress in compromise. David Mazzucchelli, best known as the artist for the seminal Batman: Year One, is sole creator on this book and, while he doesn’t deal in geopolitical division or the problems of race or wealth that plague the world currently, the lessons that can be learnt from the deeply human philosophy in Asterios Polyp are ones that we all need to be reminded of.

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Wolverine rides off into the sunset - with heart, style, and more than a few scars

Logan

If you’re even slightly interested in seeing Logan, you probably know that it’s getting rave reviews. So much so that for some people, it’s going to be tough for it to live up to the hype. So let me say right out of the gate that Logan isn’t a perfect movie. But it is a very good one, and a significant enough departure from previous instalments in the X-Men franchise that your enjoyment (or lack thereof) of the earlier movies probably isn’t a very good predictor of whether you’ll like this one. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of Westerns – and specifically the gritty, melancholy, washed-up-gunslinger-reluctantly-takes-on-one-more-job trope, this film is for you.

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Three Visions of Fantasy: An Ember in Ashes, Battlemage and Starborn

An-Ember-in-the-AshesThe DGLA is a publicly-voted, largely-British and exclusively-fantasy award. [Except when it isn't. But we'll set that aside, as no one likes a party pooper.] 

Looking at some of last year's debuts, it is fun to see how they - with the help of some wild extrapolation - represent the evolution of three very different traditions of British fantasy. So, without further ado, let's gird our loins, say farewell to the small village that never really understood us, reluctantly accept the quest that only we can accomplish, and head off in pursuit of our destiny...

Sabaa Tahir's An Ember in the Ashes is, perhaps, the easiest of these three books to talk about, as it is such a perfect archetype of what it is: an all-star gathering of YA tropes.

We've got two protagonists - Laia and Elias. One's orphaned, one's estranged from their eeeeevil parent. Both have special missions, awkwardly-discovered Chosen Destiny Powers, and harrowing day-to-day lives, periodically punctuated by the need to make Difficult Decisions. Both are spectacularly attractive. Both have 'obvious' love interests (in natural conflict with their Undeniable and Powerful Attraction to one another). Both are born to - and assigned - roles that they don't want to play. Both crave, in order, Freedom, Understanding, Something Different, A World More Fair, and a bit of sexy cuddletimes.

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Review Round-Up: War-Gamers World, 13 Minutes, Squeeze Play and More!

War Gamer's WorldFrom the mediocrity of War-Gamers' World and One Against the Moon to the horror of Fimbulwinter and The Hidden Children, I read these things so you don't have to. But hey, there's good news as well! Mystery lovers will delight in 13 Minutes and Squeeze Play, and Robert E. Howard is here to restore my faith in fantasy fiction with "Shadows in the Moonlight".

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Hugh Walker's War-Gamers' World (1975) is a disappointment. It is a set-up that we don't see so often any more, and, in fact, might be one of the first of its kind. Our protagonist is a gamer, and, in the opening chapters (paragraphs, even), he's sucked into his game world. No longer is he the master of fate - merely one of its pawns! He's seeing, first-hand, the carnage and chaos of his 'game'! He learns a valuable lesson about humanity, privilege and power!

Actually, none of that happens.

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