Thursday, May 31, 2012

“Injustice: Gods Among Us”


Just a quick news post: DC Comics has a new computer game coming out soon, and it looks kinda cool. Here’s the game trailer:

Injustice is made by the creators of Mortal Kombat, so this could actually end up a pretty decent fighting game… I am intrigued.

“Redshirts” by John Scalzi (Tor/Gollancz) - the Mark Lawrence Method

Scalzi-Red ShirtsOk, this is one of two “reviews” I’m going to post for John Scalzi’s latest novel, Redshirts. This one came about because I sent Scalzi a tweet telling him that I was irked about how difficult it was going to be to review the book. [Spoilers could so easily abound!] Mark Lawrence caught the tweet, and suggested that I

“perhaps use a series of animal pictures wherein the expressions of kittens, elephants, etc., convey your thoughts?”

To which I, naturally, replied: “Done.”

So, here it is. As a dog lover, but also someone familiar with internet memes, I have provided (where possible) a parallel dog and cat (or, “kitteh”) review of various emotions I went through while reading Redshirts. This is far from exhaustive, of course.

[This is a one-time thing. Probably.]

Comics Round-Up (May 30)


A few catch-ups and one really early review of a new series by one of my favourite comics’ writers. This was another pretty busy week, so while I tried to get as many of the comics reviewed as I could, some nevertheless had to be culled from the list. Some of these I was sent for review, so they will be read and reviewed at a later date. I just wanted to get the reviews of these issues up ASAP.


This is also one of the last weeks I’ll be reviewing individual DC issues for a while (I may do a couple more next week), as I’m heading back to the UK mid-June. I’m still working on coming back to the US if possible – Alyssa’s here for another four years, so my desperate quest for employment in or around New York continues! I’m almost at the point of begging, but that would be rather unseemly and undignified.

[*cough* … Please help … *cough*]


Anyway, on with the reviews!

Reviewed: Avengers vs. X-Men #4, AvX VS #2, Batman: The Dark Knight #9, Batwoman #9, BPRD: Hell on Earth – Transformation of J.H. O’Donnell, Call of Wonderland #1, The Defenders #6, Massive #1, Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow #13, Star Wars: Blood Ties – Boba Fett is Dead #1-2, Superman #9, Wolverine & the X-Men #10

Artwork: THE BLINDING KNIFE by Brent Weeks (Orbit)

It’s done the rounds around the biblio-net, but I really wanted to share the cover for Brent Weeks’s next novel, The Blinding Knife, on here as well. I love Weeks’s novels – his Night Angel trilogy was one of the first fantasy trilogies I reviewed on the blog, it’s prequel novella was superb, and The Black Prism (book one in this latest series) I thought was also superb, with a pretty great, original magic system to boot.


Isn’t it awesome? Certainly eye-catching, and I like the colours in the sky, and the fact that it has a semi-Roman aesthetic. I don’t really know why. It’s probably the columns. I like columns. (*Cough* Uh, paging Dr. Freud…). Massive kudos to Lauren Panepinto & the Orbit art team who worked on this.

The Blinding Knife will be published by Orbit in September 2012.

The synopsis is below. [after the break. Warning: Contains a major spoiler for The Black Prism]:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

“The Madness Within” by Steve Lyons (Black Library)


Performed by: John Banks

Desperate and isolated, Sergeant Estabann and Brother Cordoba of the Crimson Fists Space Marines are hunting the daemon that destroyed their battle-brothers. Their only hope remains with a Librarian on the edge of sanity, a potentially tainted Astartes who they are forced to trust. His psychic abilities can lead them to the daemon, where Estabann and Cordoba can avenge their brothers’ deaths. But is the greatest threat a foul denizen of the warp, or the power contained within a psyker’s mind?

The Madness Within is a pretty solid, straight-up Warhammer 40,000 tale in audio-drama medium. It’s not the best audio-drama I’ve listened to from the publisher, but it does tick off all the right boxes that make for an action-packed and entertaining future-war story. If you love the genre and the setting, then you should enjoy this, too. I did like the twist at the end, though, which I hadn’t predicted and certainly added an extra note of originality to proceedings, and making it stand out a bit more.

An Interview with V.M. ZITO


I’m a relatively new convert to the zombie-apocalypse genre, but I’ve found some really great new novels that are either doing something new or just very well. V.M Zito’s The Return Man, I thought, does both. It is also one of the surprise finds from last year. Read on for more about The Return Man, illicit childhood horror-reading, J.D. Salinger, Spider-Man and more.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

“Wonder Woman, Vol.1: Blood” (DC New 52)


Writer: Brian Azzarello | Artist: Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins (ch.5&6) | Inks: Dan Green (ch.6) | Colours: Matthew Wilson

Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, has kept a secret from her daughter all her life – and when Wonder Woman learns who her father is, her life will shatter like brittle clay. The only one more shocked than Diana by this revelation? Bloodthirsty Hera – so why is her sinister daughter, Strife, so eager for the truth to be told?

I took a gamble with this one. I’ve never read anything related purely to Wonder Woman (and only a few issues of Justice League), so have no history with the character. I’ve also not read much of Azzarello’s stuff – in fact, I’ve only read the first issue of Spaceman, which I thought was... well, not good. So, I figured I might be on safer ground here (I’ve also picked up volume one of 100 Bullets, which I’ll review pretty soon). Thankfully, I was not disappointed with this book, and I rather enjoyed it.

Not at all Book-Related… BBC Awesome Filming

The BBC is one of the best things about the UK, and this is a great clip from Planet Earth Live.

Monday, May 28, 2012

“The 500” by Matthew Quirk (Headline/Little Brown)


The darker side of Washington, DC, lobbying

Mike Ford was following his father into a life of crime, when he chose to go straight and instead worked his way through Harvard Law School. Now he’s landed the ultimate job with the Davies Group, a powerful political consulting firm run by the charismatic Henry Davies. Rubbing shoulders with Washington’s heavyweights and with more money and privileges than he’s ever imagined, Mike believes that everything has finally come right.

But he’s about to discover that power comes with a price. Henry Davies is looking for a protégé for a crucial deal and one that must go right no matter what. Mike soon learns that being on the side of the lawmakers doesn’t mean your work is legal. And there’s no place for a moral code when you’re on the devil’s payroll.

I stumbled across this book rather by accident, while hunting around for political thrillers. Luckily, it’s very good, so I’m very glad that I did. The novel takes a look at the seamier side of lobbying culture, adds in a dash of conspiracy theory, some international criminals, and plenty of action. It’s very enjoyable.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Music Video: “Burn It Down” by Linkin Park (Warner Bros.)

I’m having a rather Linkin Park-themed day, with their music videos playing in the background on repeat, and thanks to IceBergInk’s Scott, I discovered that the video for their latest single, “Burn It Down” has finally been released! The song’s from their upcoming album, Living Things (released end of June), which I’m very much looking forward to.

“Superman: Birthright” (DC)

Superman-BirthrightThe Origin of the Man of Steel

Writer: Mark Waid | Artist: Leinil Francis Yu | Inks: Gerry Alanguilan

Since his debut in 1938 Superman has become one of the most recognisable fictional characters in existence. Now, prepare for a fresh take on Superman... Imagine Superman comics were beginning again and you could read the first adventures of the Man of Steel – but reinvented from top to bottom to reflect today’s world and today’s sensibilities.

As can be expected from Mark Waid, this is a superb modern re-telling of the Superman origin story. It’s thoughtful, thought-provoking, endearing, funny and also quite sad. Certainly one of the best Superman origin stories I’ve read, I thoroughly enjoyed this.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Week In Review (May 26)

Bit of a mix this week: an article about authors and Library eBook loans; Amazon & Waterstone’s; Special Needs in Strange Worlds (the series just keeps on going strong); a mini-article by S.G. Browne; a great review of Railsea by China Mieville; and an article by Sarah Pinborough.

Friday, May 25, 2012


Sorry, I really couldn’t resist the pun… It looks like Batgirl will be facing off against Batwoman in Batgirl #12:


I rather liked the cover art, by Stanley Lau, so thought I’d share it on here. Both of these characters’ series are among my favourites of the New 52 (although, Batwoman isn’t holding up as well, this far in, which is a real pity – I think it would work better as a collected book, as it’s a big story that’s still connected nine issues in).

“The Emperor’s Gift” by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (Black Library)


The Knights of Titan go to war

The Grey Knights are all that stands between mankind and the ravages of Chaos. Since their secretive beginnings during the Horus Heresy, these legendary Space Marine daemon hunters have journeyed into the dark realms of the warp – and beyond – in pursuit of their supernatural enemies. Through an intensive regime of psychic training, new recruits are brought to the clandestine fortress of Titan to join the hallowed and vaunted ranks of the 666th Chapter. More than ever, these legendary battle-brothers must be vigilant and ever ready to defend the Imperium for the forces of Chaos are never truly defeated, and Armageddon beckons…

The Emperor’s Gift takes a look at the most secretive Chapter of the Imperium’s Adeptus Astartes, the psychically-gifted Grey Knights. It’s a very different novel to what I was expecting – not in terms of quality, but in terms of content. This, in itself, should not have been a surprise, as the author has a tendency to go in directions we wouldn’t expect, and his novels are among the best Black Library publishes because of it. The Emperor’s Gift is a great, thoughtful and thought-provoking military science-fiction story.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

“Fables” Deluxe Volume 2 (Vertigo)

Fables-Deluxe-02Writer: Bill Willingham | Artists: Mark Buckingham, Lan Medina, Craig Hamilton, P.Craig Russell, Bryan Talbot, Linda Medley & Steve Leialoha | Colours: Daniel Vozzo & Lovern Kindzierski

Collecting Issues #11-18 and more. As Snow White recovers from a bullet to the brain, she and Bigby spend a lot of time in each other's company. But when they announce that they’ll be vacationing together, all of Fabletown is shocked. The twosome are about to leave New York City and cross paths with a ruthless enemy lurking in the woods.

In the second deluxe edition of Fables, readers will find six stories – all loosely connected, and all with very different, yet equally inspired, premises. The synopsis above is actually for the third story in the book. I read this book in one sitting and, except for the first story, I think it builds brilliantly on what has come before and reinforces my belief that Fables is an essential graphic novel series for any fan of the medium and also for fans of innovative storytelling as a whole.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Civilian Reader Abroad (A Bit of Self-Pimpage)

Just a quick post: I’ve been interviewed elsewhere!

“Blogger Query” on A Fantastical Librarian

If you’re not already familiar with Mieneke’s blog, I heartily recommend it – I’ve been reading and following it pretty much since it started, after getting to know Mieneke through Twitter. Great reviews, articles, etc.

An Interview with ROD REES


I heard of Rod Rees’s new series, The Demi-Monde quite a while ago. It has an intriguing and original premise and setting – a virtual reality “training” world that features some of the most difficult environments for warfare, populated by some of the worst of history’s psychopaths… Which is pretty cool. With the second book in the series now available, I thought it would be a good time to ask him some questions about his work. Turns out, he’s not a fan of the editing phases…

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Upcoming: “LONDON FALLING” by Paul Cornell (Tor)

Some of you may know Paul Cornell through his comics work (Demon Knights, Saucer Country, Stormwatch to name but three of his most recent), but you may not know that he has a novel coming out in December 2012:


Here’s the synopsis, to further whet your appetite:

Detective Inspector James Quill is about to complete the drugs bust of his career. Then his prize suspect Rob Toshack is murdered in custody. Furious, Quill pursues the investigation, co-opting intelligence analyst Lisa Ross and undercover cops Costain and Sefton. But nothing about Toshack’s murder is normal.

Toshack had struck a bargain with a vindictive entity, whose occult powers kept Toshack one step ahead of the law – until his luck ran out. Now, the team must find a ‘suspect’ who can bend space and time and alter memory itself. And they will kill again.

As the group starts to see London’s ancient magic for themselves, they have two choices: panic or use their new abilities. Then they must hunt a terrifying supernatural force the only way they know how: using police methods, equipment and tactics. But they must all learn the rules of this new game – and quickly. More than their lives will depend on it.

It looks like it should appeal to fans of Ben Aaronovitch, China Mieville, Benedict Jacka, and pretty much any other Urban Fantasy author you could name. I’m rather looking forward to this. Here’s what the aforementioned Ben Aaronovitch has to say about the novel:

“An irresistible blend of guns, gangsters, cops and monsters that grabs you by the eyeballs and never lets go. Start this book early in the day people, because you ain’t going to get no sleep until it’s done.”

“Save the Date”, a Landmark: ASTONISHING X-MEN #51


Wrap-Around Cover, by Dustin Weaver

Astonishing X-Men #51 will be released next month, and it promises to be pretty interesting, significant issue: it will include the first gay marriage in Marvel comics – between Northstar and Kyle.

I’ve not been following this series, but it is one I’ve been wanting to read for some time. The first 24 issues were written by Joss Whedon (now collected into two large TPB as well as a fantastic, if pricey, hardcover omnibus), and as far as I’m aware his run, as well as the issues that have followed, have received a good deal of praise from readers.

Northstar was first introduced in Uncanny X-Men #120 (1979), a member of the super hero team Alpha Flight. The French-Canadian “gold medal winning Olympian and successful businessman” hero became one of the most popular members of Alpha Flight when its on-going series launched in 1983. Northstar became the first openly gay super hero when he announced his sexual identity through national media, in Alpha Flight #106 (1992). Since then, he has not only joined the X-Men but become one of their most popular new members. Northstar and his rather-mundanely-named-partner Kyle have been a couple since 2009.

Said writer Marjorie M. Liu,

“The story of Northstar and Kyle is universal, and at the core of everything I write: a powerful love between two people who have to fight for it against all odds... This is the quintessential Marvel story, one that blends the modern world with the fantasy of super heroes in order to tell an exciting story that begins with a wedding—and continues in ways you can’t imagine.”

I think this is a pretty cool development for the series, and it will certainly be interesting to see how fans react. Personally, I think this is an important step forward for comics in general, and can only help the cause of equality (even if just a little bit) going forward.

Astonishing X-Men #50 is released tomorrow, and includes the proposal (below):


Comics Round-Up (May 23)


Another busy week – with some new series and also the end to one of my favourites. There were also some surprisingly good issues, too – not because I was expecting bad issues necessarily, but they just exceeded my expectations.


Reviewed: Catwoman #9, Cobra #13, Grimm Fairy Tales #72 & #73, Guild Fawkes (One-Shot), Irredeemable #37, Justice League #9, Magic: The Gathering #4, Mind MGMT #1, Neverland: Hook #5, Nightwing #9, Resident Alien #1, Smoke & Mirrors #3, Star Wars: Darth Vader & the Ghost Prison #1, Wolverine & the X-Men #9


“False Covenant” by Ari Marmell (Pyr)


Widdershins rides again, thieving and attempting to survive a nasty supernatural threat

It’s over half a year since the brutal murder of Archbishop William de Laurent during his pilgrimage to the Galicien city of Davillon. During that time, the Church of the Hallowed Pact has assigned a new bishop to the city — but it has also made its displeasure at the death of its clergyman quite clear. Davillon’s economy has suffered beneath the weight of the Church’s displeasure. Much of the populace — angry at the clergy — has turned away from the Church hierarchy, choosing private worship or small, independent shrines. And the bishop, concerned for his new position and angry at the people of Davillon, plans to do something about it.

But a supernatural threat is stalking the night-time streets, come to infiltrate the seedier streets of Davillon, to intertwine its tendrils through the lower echelons of society. Faced with both political upheaval and a supernatural threat to its citizenry, the local representatives of the Church are paralyzed and the Guardsmen are in over their heads.

Into this mix, you have to add Widdershins, the hero of Thief’s Covenant, gifted member of the Finders Guild, and sole worshipper of the god Olgun. This second Widdershins adventure maintains the fun and excellent pacing of the first, and shows that Marmell has the ability to write for younger readers and adults with equal skill. This novel, while not perfect, was a lot of fun and showcases Marmell’s gift for writing the sinister side of fantasy as well as the fun side.

Monday, May 21, 2012

James Bond: SKYFALL Teaser

I seem to have missed all other news about this movie, but I’m rather glad they’re doing another Daniel Craig James Bond movie. The teaser trailer was just released, and it definitely whet my appetite:

Here’s the synopsis for the movie:

“Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.”

A strong cast once again, with Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney and Javier Bardem (among others) joining Daniel Craig in the top slots.


“Fables” Deluxe Volume 1 (Vertigo)

Fables-Deluxe-01The first two arcs of the superb, award-winning series

Writer: Bill Willingham | Artist: Lan Medina, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha & Craig Hamilton | Colours: Sherilyn van Valkenburgh & Daniel Vozzo

When a savage creature known only as the Adversary conquered the fabled lands of legends and fairy tales, all of the infamous inhabitants of folklore were forced into exile. Disguised among the normal citizens of modern-day New York, these magical characters have created their own peaceful and secret society within an exclusive luxury apartment building called Fabletown. When Snow White’s party-girl sister, Rose Red, is apparently murdered, it’s up to Fabletown’s sheriff, the reformed and pardoned Big Bad Wolf, to find the killer. Meanwhile, trouble of a different sort brews at the Fables’ upstate farm where non-human inhabitants are preaching revolution – and threatening Fabletown’s carefully nurtured secrecy.

I’d been on the fence about trying this series for a while – I’d heard great things, but couldn’t decide on whether or not to buy the normal trade paperback collections or the deluxe editions. Alyssa made the decision for me, and got me this book for my birthday. And I am so happy that she did – this is a superb series, and the two story arcs in here are perfect introductions to Willingham’s engaging, inspired and subversive world.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

“The Unwritten” Vol.1 (Vertigo)

Unwritten-Vol.01“Tommy Taylor & the Bogus Identity”

Writer: Mike Carey | Artist: Peter Gross

Tom Taylor’s life was screwed from the word go. His father created the mega-popular Tommy Taylor boy-wizard fantasy novels. But dad modelled the fictional epic so closely to Tom that fans constantly compare him to his counterpart, turning him into a lame, Z-level celebrity. When a scandal hints that Tom might really be the boy-wizard made flesh, Tom comes into contact with a mysterious, deadly group that’s secretly kept tabs on him all his life. Now, to protect his life and discover the truth behind his origins, Tom will travel the world, to all the places in world history where fictions have shaped reality.

I knew nothing about this series before I picked up this book. My local comic store was having a decent sale for graphic novels, so I decided to try something new. Given the amount of praise that has been heaped on The Unwritten (much of it printed on the front and back covers of this book), I figured I was on to a good thing. I was not wrong – after a start that wasn’t encouraging, this took off into directions I hadn’t expected and that were inspired, original, and absolutely gripping.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Artwork: STORMDANCER by Jay Kristoff (Tor US)

I posted the UK artwork for Kristoff’s upcoming debut last month. Now, the Jason Chan-created US artwork has been unveiled! So I thought I’d share that, as well (because I think it’s brilliant):


There’s an interesting article over on by Kristoff and Chan, about the genesis of the artwork.


So, looks like Marvel’s going to be introducing a new, interesting character. From the creative team of fan-favorite writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and rising star artist Dexter Soy. (Covers will be done by Ed McGuinness and Adi Granov). Here’s a synopsis of the story:

“Carol Danvers suits up to tackle a threat only she can handle. Earth’s Mightiest Hero has a new name, a new mission and all the power she needs to make her life a living hell.”

Captain America will be guest starring in the first issue (on sale July 18th 2012). The press-release states that “no fan can miss this explosive new on-going [series] that will send shockwaves throughout the Marvel Universe” (emphasis mine). I’m sure it’ll be good (see below for some internal page art), but I am always dubious about words like those I’ve put in bold. Needless to say, I’m quite interested in seeing how this turns out, and I’m pleased they have given the character a more-or-less realistic physique.

“Somewhere It Snows” by T.C. McCarthy

McCarthy-SomewhereItSnowsAn emotional and thought-provoking science-fiction short

Lev Sandakchiev is old and worn out. An indentured servant to a warrior alien race, he wonders if he’ll survive his last assignment. If he does, Lev has a choice: return to Ukraine – on Earth – or stay in space as the master of his own indentured servants, forever tied to the commerce of destruction...

Somewhere It Snows is an interesting, well-written and stand-alone science-fiction short story from the author of Germline, Exogene and the forthcoming Chimera.

Our protagonist Lev is working for a warlike alien race as a runner and supplier, trying to work up enough service to make it to the “merchant” rank, which will grant him greater status and privilege, and also the possibility to go home to Earth.

It’s a very tantalising short story, due to the themes and information it introduces us to, and also because of the engaging main character. However, because of its length, it is a little difficult to describe or discuss without ruining the story. It has an almost wistful, sad air – it is the story of a man long removed from his home, wondering how, why and if he’ll ever make it back and what it will mean if he could return. It packs quite an emotional, raw punch.

I’d love to read more of this setting, because I think McCarthy is really on to something here. It works wonderfully as a raw snapshot of a hard life in the far future, a future with endless potential for violence and the threat of external invasion and extermination hanging over almost all cultures, species and planets.

As an introduction to McCarthy’s writing style, it’s fantastic, and if you want a taster before trying Germline, then this is a good place to start – if you’re in the US, you could also try his other short stories (published through Orbit), The Legionnaires and The People’s Army, which are not available in the UK [yes, this is a bit of an old, good-natured grumble of mine...].


Somewhere It Snows is available here (UK) and here (US).

To find out more about McCarthy’s writing, visit his website. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Also on CR: Interview with T.C. McCarthy

“Captain America: Red Menace” (Marvel)


The second Brubaker-penned Captain America ultimate collection

Writer: Ed Brubaker | Artists: Mike Perkins, Javier Pulido, Marcos Martin & Steve Epting | Colours: Frank D’Armata

Six months ago, Crossbones kidnapped the Red Skull’s daughter, Sin, from a government re-education facility and disappeared into the night. Now, he and his spawn of infinite evil have come to the American Midwest to tear a new hole in A.I.M. – but none of them counted on Cap and Agent 13 stumbling into the mix.

The second volume in Brubaker’s run on Captain America picks up the story and expands on Cap’s history and the canon surrounding the character and some of his most infamous nemeses. It’s dark, gritty, action-packed and quite gripping.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

ARROW Teaser Trailer from the CW


I’m quite intrigued by this adaptation of Green Arrow. It appears to be a bit darker than Smallville, so it could end up being pretty good and different. And, who knows, it may survive for a few more episodes than series like this usually do.

Here’s the CW’s first trailer, released earlier today:

This teaser doesn’t really tell us anything more than the dude has a bow and has mad skills using it. And he can do some pretty intense exercises.

“Bad Blood” by Chuck Wendig (Abaddon)

Wendig-DoubleDead-BadBloodThe novella sequel to Double Dead

San Francisco after the zombie apocalypse.

Vampire-predator turned human-protector Coburn is on the trail his his vampire sire. When he finds him, it is not to catch up on the good times, but to take revenge.

Alcatraz. Super-zombies. A ketamine-trip cult of New Age weirdos who eat the flesh of the zombie as some kind of grotesque communion.

In this second instalment of his Double Dead series, Wendig has done it again – he has written a darkly humorous, action-packed horror romp. It fast-paced, witty, eloquent and engaging. Just more evidence that Mr Wendig is an author everyone should read.

[Warning: There are some minor spoilers for the previous novel in the series, Double Dead.]

“Morning Glories” Vol.1 (Image)

MorningGlories-Vol.01A mystifying, engrossing series…

Writer: Nick Spencer | Artist: Joe Eisma | Colours: Alex Sollazzo

Morning Glory Academy is one of the most prestigious prep schools in the country, but something sinister and deadly lurks behind its walls. When six gifted but troubled new students arrive, they find themselves trapped and fighting for their lives as the secrets of the academy reveal themselves!

This is a little difficult to review at length, given the comic’s nature and the fact that I’m still not entirely sure what’s going on. This latter point is not, however, in a bad way. Morning Glories shows that a little mystery can go a long way to keeping readers interested and coming back for more. This is a twisted comic, but one that has a lot of potential.

Comics: “Night of the Owls” & “Avengers vs. X-Men”


Here’s a quick, extra comics round-up for four issues I managed to catch up on recently. As you can gather from the title, it focuses on two on-going story “events”, one from DC and one from Marvel. I have very different feelings for the two of them.

Reviewed: Avengers vs. X-Men #3, Batgirl #9, Batman #9, Batman & Robin #9

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

An Interview with DAVID ANNANDALE


I first discovered David Annandale when I read his excellent short story, The Carrion Anthem, for Black Library. Since then, I’ve discovered that he wears a number of authorial hats, dipping his pen in a number of genres. therefore, I decided to ask him about his writing, WH40k, explosive thrillers, and more…

“Scourge of the Betrayer” by Jeff Salyards (Night Shade)

Salyards-1-ScourgeOfTheBetrayerA superb military fantasy debut

Many tales are told of the Syldoon Empire and its fearsome soldiers, who are known throughout the world for their treachery and atrocities. Some say that the Syldoon eat virgins and babies – or perhaps their own mothers.

Arkamondos, a bookish young scribe, suspects that the Syldoon’s dire reputation may have grown in the retelling, but he’s about to find out for himself. Hired to chronicle the exploits of a band of rugged Syldoon warriors, Arki finds himself both frightened and fascinated by the men’s enigmatic leader, Captain Braylar Killcoin. A secretive, mercurial figure haunted by the memories of those he’s killed with his deadly flail, Braylar has already disposed of at least one impertinent scribe... and Arki might be next. Archiving the mundane doings of millers and merchants was tedious, but at least it was safe. As Arki heads off on a mysterious mission into parts unknown, in the company of the coarse, bloody-minded Syldoon, he is promised a chance to finally record an historic adventure well worth the telling, but first he must survive the experience.

In his debut, Jeff Salyards gives us an intimate look at the lives of the soldiers who operate on the frontlines of an insurgent conflict. We are taken into the midst of a company of Syldoon soldiers, and presented with a very human tale of the repercussions of extended warfare. I had very high expectations for Scourge of the Betrayer, and I’m glad to say that it exceeded them.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

eBooks aGlow

Last week, Barnes & Noble released this (although it is actually out of stock – predictable for any new piece of tech):


The Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, which is apparently the “Only Reader designed for perfect bedtime reading”. In a cheeky move, they also released this graphic, explaining why “Nook is better than Kindle”:


To be honest, this is less than convincing for me – I don’t need a light for my Kindle, admittedly, and have never thought to buy one.

Predictably, Amazon have now announced they “will launch new versions of its Kindle e-reader and tablet, including a monochrome e-reader with front lighting”, and apparently Amazon “is aiming to have the new e-reader in stores in July” (Reuters). It never fails to amaze me how quickly they’re able to bring these new models to market.

Apparently, while the Kindle has been extremely popular (I love mine, FYI), people “have had to buy an external light to attach to the device to read in the dark. The front light eliminates that problem”… Personally, I see this as a pretty strange complaint about Kindles – you would need a light to read a book, too, after all. It’s not the greatest imposition.

What do you think about eReaders with GlowLights or screen lights?

Comics Round-Up (May 16)


This week I bring you some weird supernatural goings-on, a triumvirate of super-heroes try to save New York City, a vampire slayer goes into space, some anthropomorphised dinosaurs kick butt, the history of the Jedi is expanded on, and an undead king fights an army of pissed off warrior-women.

So, a bit of a mix, then…

Reviewed: BPRD Hell On Earth: Devil’s Engine #1, Daredevil #11, FCBD Buffy/Guild, FCBD Star Wars/Serenity, Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi #4, Valen the Outcast #6

Monday, May 14, 2012

“Chew, Vol.2: International Flavor” (Image)

Chew-Vol.02-InternationalFlavourWriter: John Layman | Artist: Rob Guillory

Cibopathic detective Tony Chu – able to get psychic impressions from whatever he eats – has a strange new case. A newly-discovered fruit which, when cooked, tastes remarkably like chicken, leads Chu to a small Western Pacific island – an island full of secrets, intrigue... and murder!

Just a quick review, this. This volume of Layman and Guillory’s delightfully weird series displays the same strengths and humour as Taster’s Choice. This made me laugh and cringe, but was always entertaining and addictive.

“Dead in the Water” by Sandy Mitchell (Black Library)


Performed by Toby Longworth

Commissar Ciaphas Cain is a renowned and revered hero of the Imperium, a man who has faced and survived some of the vilest creatures the universe can throw at him. But when he is sent to a river-world, he must deal with a dangerous enemy, an enemy whose true identity remains unknown. As his vessel traverses the straits of the planet, Cain must uncover the face of this new foe so that he can understand and escape it. Caught in the enemy crossfire, the commissar has no place to run, and his nerve will be tested to the very limits.

I’ve been a fan of Sandy Mitchell’s Ciaphas Cain series ever since the first book, For The Emperor, so I wanted to put together just a quick review of this audio-drama. I was interested to see how the character transferred over into this medium, and I have to say I think it worked quite well. The series and character add a refreshing cynical tone to the WH40k setting, and I quite enjoyed this. Not to be missed if you’re a fan of the novels.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

DMZ: “The Hidden War” & “Blood in the Game” - Vols. 5 & 6 (Vertigo)


Two more excellent additions to Wood’s essential series

These two volumes in DMZ, fast-becoming my favourite series, add yet more detail and flavour to this Manhattan, its denizens, culture and politics. The second book also suggests that big things are in the works for the DMZ, and Matty and Co’s lives are never going to be the same. Absolutely superb.

“Animal Man, Vol.1: The Hunt” (DC)

AnimalMan-Vol.01 (New52)An intriguing, twisted, and bizarre series.

Writer: Jeff Lemire | Artist: Travel Foreman, John Paul Leon ("Tights") & Steve Pugh | Inks: Jeff Huet & Dan Green | Colours: Lovern Kindzierski

In these tales from issues #1-6 of the new series, Buddy Baker has gone from “super” man to family man – but is he strong enough to hold his family together when Maxine, his young daughter, starts to manifest her own dangerous powers? As these new abilities continue to terrify Buddy and his wife Ellen, things take a turn for the worse as Buddy and Maxine begin a journey into the heart of The Red.

This series received a rather unprecedented amount of praise, when it was first coming out. I wasn't able to find a copy of issue one in stores for a long time and, coupled with my only being newly returned to comics, this just seemed a little too weird for me. Nevertheless, when this collection was finally released, I decided I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. Given what I now know about comics, I can see why this was popular. However, I’m not sure it was really for me, despite some very cool things about it…

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Week in Review (May 5-12)

This week, I’m afraid I wasn’t online that much, so I may well have missed a few articles and posts. Nevertheless, I did stumble across a few interesting articles. So, we have Sarah Fay of The Atlantic ponders the future of book reviews online; Lev Grossman is interviewed for Far Beyond Reality; Myke Cole writes about authors and their political views, and what sort of impact that can have on readers, and when it’s ok to voice these opinions; and Bookworm Blues continues the “Special Needs in Strange Worlds” series with articles by Teresa Frohock, Daniel Goodman, Aidan Moher, Stina Leicht and Jay Lake.

“Executive Privilege” by Phillip Margolin (Hodder)

Margolin-W1-ExecutivePrivilege2The first of the Washington Trilogy

When private detective Dana Cutler is hired by an attorney with powerful political connections, the assignment seems simple enough: follow a pretty college student named Charlotte Walsh and report on where she goes and whom she sees. But then the unexpected happens. One night, Cutler follows Walsh to a secret meeting with Christopher Farrington, the president of the United States. The following morning, Walsh’s dead body shows up and Cutler has to run for her life.

In Oregon, Brad Miller, a junior associate in a huge law firm is working on the appeal of a convicted serial killer. Clarence Little, now on death row, claims he was framed for the murder of a teenager who, at the time of her death, worked for the then governor, Christopher Farrington. Suddenly, a small-time private eye and a fledgling lawyer find themselves in possession of evidence that suggests that someone in the White House is a murderer. Their only problem? Staying alive long enough to prove it.

I’ve been on a political thriller kick recently, and have been scouring the shelves in all my local bookstores for more series and novels to try out. I came across Margolin by accident, but on the strength of this novel, I’m very happy that I did. This thriller is entertaining, twisty, and well written. I enjoyed reading it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

“DMZ: Public Works & Friendly Fire” - Vols. 3 & 4 (Vertigo)


Terrorists and shell-shocked soldiers in the DMZ – this series just keeps getting better

Writer: Brian Wood | Artist: Riccardo Burchielli, Nathan Fox, Viktor Kalvachev & Kristian Donaldson | Colours: Jeremy Cox | Intro: Cory Doctorow (#3) & John G. Ford (#4)

As I’m now starting to make some progress into the series, in an attempt to avoid unnecessary spoilers right off the bat, I thought I’d start grouping my DMZ reviews into two-book-per-review. One thing is clear, though: each of these books is fantastic, and the series continues to be engrossing, nuanced and thought-provoking by equal measures. Still a must-read.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Guest Post: “We know goblins don’t exist, but they don’t…” by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s The Fallen Blade was one of my favourite novels last year, and definitely one of my favourite vampire novels ever. It was dark, original, and visceral, populated by engaging characters. The sequel, The Outcast Blade is out now in the US and imminent in the UK. In this post, he takes a look at what it means to write a character in a particular time period…


We know goblins don’t exist, but they don’t…”

In the beginning there was a bad man who met a girl who made him want to be less of a bad man and – if this was possible, and he wasn’t entirely sure – perhaps even a good man in time. And even if being bad was a hell of a lot more fun – for him and for the writer, which concerned him not at all – he still wanted to be good, because he’d done many bad things and the girl loved him and hey, he didn’t want to be bad anymore…

That, basically, is the template for a hundred novels and, with a couple of minor amendments, quite possibly, a thousand, if not ten thousand real lives. I was aware of the psychological profile we expect for a character moving from darkness to light, and the reading protocols, the expectations readers bring to different kinds of books when I set out to write Tycho. What I hadn’t factored in were the complications inherent in trying to place him in a historically realistic setting.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Comics Round-Up (May 9)


Quite a busy week for comics – partly because of the free ones I got on Free Comic Book Day, but also a good selection of others that I had a chance to catch up on. Unfortunately, I read and reviewed these over a pretty stressful couple of days, so some of the reviews are rather short. If you’d like to know more, leave a comment and I’ll expand on the issue in question.


This was my first year able to attend FCBD, and it was… Eye-opening. For one, it’s a superb idea, and one that I hope continues for a very long time, if not forever. It’s a great way to check out some new and upcoming titles and, as in my case, some older titles – as long as you get to your local comic store(s) early. It was manic at Jim Hanley’s Universe, and I went late in the day! Midtown’s Grand Central location was empty (and way too hot), but that’s because they’d run out of free comic books (I did pick up the Ultimate Spider-Man issue there for free, though). So, anyway. Without further ado, here are some comics from this and last week…


Reviewed: Action Comics #9, Avenging Spider-Man #6, Batman: Detective Comics #766 (FCBD), Fanboys vs. Zombies #2, G.I.Joe #13, Higher Earth #1, Memorial #5, The New 52 #1 (FCBD), Night of 1,000 Wolves #1, The Punisher #10, Superboy #8, Supurbia #3, Teen Titans Annual #1, Trio #1, Ultimate Spider-Man #160 (FCBD)

“FCBD” = an issue I got on Free Comic Book Day

Strange Chemisty: First Experiments…


It was an exciting day when Angry Robot Books announced the launch of their YA imprint, Strange Chemistry. Doubly so, when we were told that Amanda Rutter would be the imprint’s editor – some, if not most, of you will remember Amanda’s excellent book and review website, Floor-To-Ceiling-Books. So, knowing that she has impeccable taste in books, this bode well for Strange Chemistry’s line of books. Now that the first five title have been announced, I thought I’d put together a single post about them all, providing synopses and artwork. It’s a nice clutch of novels.