Wednesday, 28 May 2008
Paperback from Mira Books
The second book in Rachel Vincent’s werecats series doesn’t pull any punches (or indeed claws). Pretty much as soon as you open it, you’re thrown into the action straight away. The style of writing is very much in the Laurel K. Hamilton/Kelley Armstrong vein, but in this example of the burgeoning shapeshifter/Paranormal genre, the emphasis is on much more animalistic behaviour. There’s much more passion in the writing, the action and indeed the, erm, passion in this book, making for a gritty, greasy and sometimes downright nasty (in a nice way) read. She doesn’t hold back on the horror, or the violence, or any other potentially controversial aspect, but they are dealt with in a remarkably matter-of-fact manner, which is most refreshing.
The cast of characters is strong, particularly the leads Faythe and Marc, who come across as genuinely rounded characters who are both appalled and fascinated by their life as werecats and hunters. The urban setting in which most of the action takes place is dank and litter strewn, daubed with graffiti and broken lightbulbs, and this gives the book a real sense of atmosphere amid the frenetic pace of the story.
The plot, concerning a rogue stray werecat who is killing indiscriminately, is simple enough, but it is layered with so many other subplots that it sometimes feels like a bit of an afterthought. That said, those subplots are worked into the prose very well. One thing that make this stand out from the crowd is Vincent’s superb feat in making the novel feel wholly self contained, instead of another episode in an ongoing series, which is a pitfall suffered by many entries in the genre. You don’t need to have read the first book, Stray, to enjoy Rogue. The details are covered quickly and in a nicely subtle manner for the most part.
Violent, sexy and exciting, this is a strong addition to the ever growing Urban fantasy genre, and I’m interested to see where the series goes from here. This novel is not on general release in the UK yet, but it can be found in many specialist bookshops. It is most definitely worth searching out and getting your paws on.
Tuesday, 20 May 2008
Monday, 19 May 2008
CG Special Effects - No Longer Special?
By Andrew Hawnt
There is a growing trend in big budget cinema for the special effects to be the star of the show instead of a strong story or a compelling script. Granted, many people are content to inhale this form of visual popcorn in massive quantities, but the films that are stuffed with pixellated chaos don't always measure up in terms of being a coherent piece of drama. Isn't it time movie makers took a look at the classics of their respective genres and took a few lessons? Yes, we are now capable of showing literally anything on screen, no matter how outlandish the imaginations of writers and directors, but there is the danger of it becoming the main attraction of the films instead of being moved, thrilled, entertained or otherwise stimulated by celluloid.
Look at the first ALIEN movie. There are some massive, grandiose set pieces in there that have become some of the most iconic moments in science fiction and horror movies, but then again, it is the stuff you don't see that gets the scares and makes the adrenalin pump. You rarely see the Alien creature in that film, which makes it all the more terrifying as viewers are made to create the things they see in the darkness via their own imaginations. Now, we are served up the whole shebang in hurriedly rendered CG, leaving nothing to the imagination and replacing awe and shock with the tedious process of thinking 'Oh, nice composite'.
There is also the matter of physical effects Vs cheaper CG effects. While many incredible feats may be achieved with CG, it really starts to break down the artistry of cinema when we start getting CG blood and makeup effects. An example would be Land of the Dead, in which much of the flying gore is computer generated, and in the darkness of the action shots, makes the blood look as though it was based on the fatalities in the original Mortal Kombat video game.
I believe that CG should be used sparingly, and if it is used, it should be used to create things that would be impossible to do with physical effects or camera tricks. While the computer generated creatures may look incredible, they don't always seem to carry enough mass or weight, making them look loose and ethereal when what we want is stompy and chaotic. A happy medium needs to be found, but while studios continue to shoot entire films against green screens and pepper their casts with characters that have to be generated in post production, it actually takes the audience out of the story and makes them check out how the thing was made instead. A balance must be maintained, for the future of the industry as a whole and the future enjoyment of viewers and customers.
Andrew writes for the pop culture/memorabilia site starstore.com and its blogs, covering the latest and greatest in film, TV, music and comics merchandise and collectibles.
The character of Tom Blaine is great, an everyman that you really do grow attached to. His journey through the world of 2110 is fascinating, and the ideas thrown up, such as the almighty Hereafter, the reality of ghosts, zombies acting as hosts for spirits and so on, are compelling. The reactions of Blaine when he first comes to in 2110 are great, and you really get a sense of him being an outsider thrown into a world he can barely recognize. The future world is nicely depicted, without going into too much detail about how everything works in both a technological and sociological sense, which goes a long way towards sustaining the sense of disbelief. There’s still wonder to be had in that world, but it is hard to find amid the rabble of a civilization showing the full scale of changes that were first being glimpsed back in Blaine’s own time.
The ending is unexpected and appropriate, and I was very pleased to find that this was a book which I couldn’t work out the ending to, even when a mere twenty pages away from its climax. Sheckley’s prose is skilful and daring, and for a first novel it holds up very well indeed. Here’s a book that really does deserve its status as one of science fiction’s most popular novels.
I was going to say this would make a great movie, but there’s already been one- Freejack, back in 1992. That didn’t really do the novel justice in any way, but I’d love to see one made now that remained faithful to the original novel. While some of the text and dialogue has indeed dated, the plot remains strong and the storytelling is constantly impressive.
Saturday, 17 May 2008
There will be a very special announcement regarding ACROSS THE SEAS OF MIND soon.
In other news I'm working on some new articles intended for the mass media, as well as planning the completion of the HYBRID ICON album and more. The latest issue of POWERPLAY magazine is out now, and features several of my reviews, which, as ever, were a blast to write.
Tuesday, 13 May 2008
A massive step came next. With the trailer complete and a promotional press pack put together, Dave and Basia set about gathering the capital to get the thing made for real. Where did they go? Where else but the Cannes Film Festival. This took me by surprise, as it cemented the project in my head as something that really had a chance of being made and actually coming out looking like a film.
The dynamic duo spent a couple of days schmoozing with big name directors, producers and stars, and quaffing an insane amount of free champagne. For two days they weren't struggling film makers who populated a dilapidated and cramped office and had holes in their boots. For two days they were a director and a producer with a product to offer. Their gamble of a trip to Cannes had cost them pretty much every penny they had, but when they came back (with gargantuan hangovers), they brought news. Very big news indeed.
Our film had found financiers.
Suddenly we had been offered the chance to play in the big boy's yard. In total, the budget was going to stretch into the millions of pounds...
(The third ebook installment will be out soon, and once completed, the series will be collated into a full length book, with photos, a full script and additional material on making zero budget films). The first two parts are still available at my store.
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
My first anthology, featuring 16 stories including the novella ACROSS THE SEAS OF MIND and the chilling WITH DEAD EYES OPEN, is now available in paperback and download formats!
ACROSS THE SEAS OF MIND- Available to order here!
Begun in mid 2007 and sadly derailed by the period following the Yorkshire Floods, the book has now been completed and its first edition is now offered here. The print version is priced at £5.99 and the download is priced at £1.99. As a bonus, the book contains print versions of two articles. The contents of this book are very special to me, featuring some stories that have been published on my blog in the past, in a revised and checked form, as well as a wealth of brand new material.