Thursday, 4 September 2014

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - A Review

Okay, so this film is a few years old now, but seeing as I've only just watched it - Having kids has certainly taken my finger of the pop culture pulse - I wanted to offer my thoughts.

Rise is clearly the start of a new run of Apes films. With Dawn having just gone through the cinemas, I felt it was time to watch it.

As the title suggests, Rise is the Apes book of Genesis.

In Rise, we get to know the first Ape - Caesar. Used in experiments to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease, Caesar develops way beyond the expected intellect of a normal ape. This is handled well in the film, always highlighting the potential problems for messing with nature and science.

When Caesar's death is ordered due to an experiment going wrong, Will Rodman (played by James Franco), takes him home to live with him.

The inevitable happens and Caesar becomes a threat to society. This is when he's transferred to a sanctuary. Up until this point, I was invested in the story, cared for Caesar's plight and really wanted to see him make it through. But it was at the sanctuary where the film lost me.

While in the sanctuary, Caesar finds himself in the care of a worker who hates apes. The thing is, the worker doesn't seem to have any motivation for hating the apes other than his own inherent cruelty. While this sets up the tension required for the conflict that sees Caesar eventually pop, it makes the sanctuary worker hideously one-dimensional and unbelievable. It was like they'd drafted in a Scooby Doo villain to push the story forwards because they didn't know how else to create conflict.

As the title suggests, the ensuing drama leads to the rise of the planet of the apes.

Were it not for the weak middle this would have been a great film. I'll definitely watch Dawn and hope Draco Malfoy is nowhere to be seen. The annoying thing is, he would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those pesky apes.

Rating - 6.5 out of 10.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

A Review of Dead Hunger by Eric A. Shelman

Dead Hunger is book one in a series of books by Eric A Shelman - His author page on Amazon can be found here.

Dead Hunger is a zombie book, which I'm sure is pretty obvious from the cover image. We see the outbreak though the eyes of Flex Sheridan. The book starts with him rushing to see his sister, who is turning into a zombie while talking to him on the phone.

In my reviews I try to avoid spoilers where possible, so please forgive my talking around the plot without much specific detail.

Like all good zombie stories, this book has a core group of characters at the centre of it that I truly cared about. The story starts with the main character, Flex, introducing the group. Time is then rewound to the start of the outbreak, or at least Flex's first experience of it, before the group had formed. You see how the group came together. I thought this was an interesting way of telling the story and made the first appearance of each of the group members all the more powerful.

The first few chapters really pull you into the story, the behaviour of the zombies is human, yet alien at the same time. They're portrayed in a way that's truly unsettling.

Having read a lot of zombie fiction, the actual zombies don't usually affect me. However, in Dead Hunger I found myself suitably unsettled by how they acted. Especially Flex's sister. The horror is subtle in Eric Shelman's prose, it's layered and creeps up on you like a rising tide.

This is a well written book that sets up the series well. I look forward to reading book two.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

A review of The Fault in our Stars by John Green

Okay, so this book probably doesn't need any more press, but I've just finished it and I thought I'd add my thoughts on it.

Before I read this book, I wasn't sure if it would be for me. I like young adult, but it's not a genre I actively seek out.

Unless you've been living in a cave, you've probably heard about this book. It's the story of a teenage girl, Hazel, who is terminally ill with cancer. While at a support group for people suffering with cancer, she meets Augustus, who is in remission, and so the love affair begins.

Hazel isn't self-pitying about her disease. All she's trying to do is live her life, respond to her emotions, and make the most out of the time she has left. It's this attitude that makes her life so engaging.

Hazel's love interest, Augustus (Gus), is witty and eloquent. At points I found him a little too eloquent and borderline pretentious, but those moments were fleeting. On the whole I loved him and his role in the story.

Getting to know these characters and see their love grow was a pleasure. Green manages to negotiate teenage love without making it feel like an over-emotional mess. It was well handled and captivating to read. This made the sad scenes all the more heartbreaking.

While reading this book, I felt so close to the action I could smell cancer and everything associated with it. The treatments, the hospitals, the drugs...

To avoid spoilers I won't take my review any further.

John Green is an amazing author, with a wonderful prose style. Incredibly conscious writing makes for an easy read, but a well crafted one.

This is a great book and one I would recommend to anyone. It's funny, heart breaking, and incredibly well told.  

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Space Mullet, Chapter Two, by Daniel Warren Johnson

After reading chapter one last month, I've finally managed to find the time to return to chapter two, and I'm so glad I did. Following on from the first chapter, the plot reveals more about the space marines and Jonah's dark history with them. 

In a bid to avoid spoilers, all I'll say is the story gets darker and more complex, introducing new characters and depth to the narrative.

There are several twists and turns in the chapter, none of them contrived, and some of them made me giddy-the monsters so beautifully rendered. I wish I had some of these pages in my collection! 

The art is amazing. The story telling is such you can fly through the issue, transitioning from panel to panel smoothly. Although, each panel is so beautiful, it makes you stop and appreciate this amazing world. 

Fast paced, dark, imaginative, and beautiful, this is a must read, and is FREE to read. 

5 Stars.

Can we have a hardcover please Daniel?

Friday, 25 July 2014

A Review of Odium 2 by Claire C Riley

As the title suggests, Odium 2 is the follow up to Odium. Odium Origins is also available, which I'm yet to read.

The Odium series of books are about the zombie apocalypse. We start Odium well after the zombie outbreak with the main character, Nina, leaving the protection of the walled city she's living within. Sometimes taking your chances with the zombies is a better option than staying where you are.

The sequel follows on from the original, so Odium is essential reading before moving on to Odium 2.

Not only is the writing great in the Odium books, and the characters are well rounded and realised, but the thing that grabbed my attention more than anything was the settings the characters find themselves in.  I won't spoil the journey by listing them, but I found myself marvelling at the imaginative environments in which the characters ended up.

If you like well written zombie fiction, strong characters, and a strong female lead, then you can't go wrong with the Odium series. With intrigue from both the future and the past, I found myself hungry for more with every page turn.

My only complaint is that Odium 3 isn't ready yet!

A great series for anyone who loves zombie fiction. Tense, intriguing, funny, violent. What more could you want?

Keep up the great writing Claire.

For a full list of Claire's work, check her website out.

Friday, 11 July 2014

A Review of Critical Dawn by Darren Wearmouth and Colin Barnes

This review is written with the aim to avoid spoilers, so please forgive me if it's a little light on details. 

Critical Dawn is the story of an alien invasion on planet Earth. At the start, the book is narrated from the perspectives of two characters. Their situations seem impossibly far apart, and I found myself racing through the book to understand just how their lives would inevitably cross.

Playing cleverly with time, Wearmouth and Barnes manage to weave a compelling story of alien invasion that's truly horrific to imagine. Fast paced, brutal, and entirely compelling, Critical Dawn had me thinking about the story long after I'd put the book down. 

The characters are both well rounded and well realised. The individual personalities of each one shines through. 

For anyone looking for a strong Sci-fi tale, full of action and suspense, then look no further than Critical Dawn. 

Highly recommended. 

5 out of 5 stars. 

Links to Critical Dawn:-

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Space Mullet, Chapter One, by Daniel Warren Johnson

I first heard of this comic on Eleven O'Clock Comics. Skottie Young recommended it.

The premise of Space Mullet is a Space Marine has gone AWOL, although we don't yet know why. The story starts with the AWOL marine - Jonah - going on a mission. The leader of said mission seems reckless and unhinged, and Jonah is clearly uneasy with him from the start. 

The story then fast forwards a few years and Jonah is roaming through space, picking up work as a Space Trucker with a Zozobian named Alphius. If I'm looking for comparisons, I'm inclined to draw the obvious one between Han and Chewbacca.

In the first chapter we're told that Jonah has a dark past, one he's trying to free himself from. The suggestion is that something happened during the mission he went on at the beginning. We also find out that Alphius would follow him into the sun because he saved him - again this reminded me of the Chewbacca life debt.

The art is beautiful, the story flowing from panel to panel. The different aliens have great designs and the world building is amazing. The second we landed down on the first planet, I was transported into a rich world of poverty and violence. A world I wanted to know so much more about.

I don't want to spoil the story of the first chapter, but I would highly recommend this webcomic. Surely this story needs the Kickstarter hardcover treatment?

This is a great sci-fi comic with a fast pace and engaging worlds / characters.

Highly recommended.

Monday, 10 February 2014

A Review of Sweet Tooth, Out of the Woods, by Jeff Lemire and Jose Villarubia

Out of the Woods is the first story arc in Sweet Tooth, a Vertigo comic by Jeff Lemire and Jose Villarubia. 

The first thing to grab me was just how beautiful this book is. Both Lemire’s art and Jose Villarubia’s muted colour palette set the tone for this bleak, post-apocalyptic tale.

The first story arc is called Out of the Woods and it introduces us to Gus, a hybrid child with antlers. We find out that his mother has died and his dad is keeping him in a cabin in the woods away from the rest of the world. Because of what his father has told him, Gus believes the outside world to be dangerous.
Having spent his entire existence in seclusion, Gus’ life is suddenly thrown into turmoil when his father dies. The boy knows nothing of the world and now has to survive in it. 

We find out very quickly that Gus’ antlers means he’s a hybrid. This makes him valuable to other people. Although, it’s not clear why. It creates wonderful intrigue as it makes the reader question every person’s motives that he comes into contact with. 
When Gus is approached by poachers, Jeppard, a haggard Clint Eastwood kind of character, rescues him. With the promise of being taken to a safe place, Gus goes with Jeppard. 
Seeing the world through Gus’ eyes gives the reader a naive view on things. You can see that the other characters have motives, but you can’t understand them because Gus doesn’t. 
It’s wonderful storytelling.

The set up of this book reminded me of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. We have a man and a boy trying to exist in a savage world where there are no rules. The biggest threat are the other survivors. 

I’ve always been impressed with Lemire’s story telling skills and Sweet Tooth is my favourite so far. The tale moves at quite a clip and the naivety of Gus broke my heart. He’s such a pure soul in a broken and violent world. 

I will definitely be reading more of this story. 

5 out of 5 stars! 

Saturday, 8 February 2014

A Review of FVZA (Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency) by David Hine, Roy Allen Martinez, Kinsun Loh and Jerry Choo

FVZA is written by David Hine, illustrated by Roy Allan Martinez and painted by Kinsun Loh and Jerry Choo. 

FVZA (Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency) is a three-issue miniseries by Radical. Although it’s only three-issues, each issue is about three times the length of a normal comic book. 
The story follows a woman called Landra, who, with her brother, Vidal, is raised by her Grandad. Her Grandad used to be a director at the FVZA before it was disbanded, the threat of zombies and vampires seeming to have vanished. 
Not confident this was the case, the Grandfather trains Landra and Vidal on how to kill zombies and vampires, so if the threat returned they would be ready. 
The inevitable happens and the government calls on the Grandfather’s expertise to deal with the matter. Landra and Vidal follow their grandfather into setting up the FVZA once again. 

I love zombie stories, but vampire tales can leave me dry. I have to say, this book has made me want to read more vampire fiction. Instead of beautiful and pallid goths walking around in long coats, these vampires are fierce monsters. Ruthless and detached killers.
The zombies are also presented with a slight twist. Very early on, I found myself questioning who the real monsters were as I saw what the humans were doing to these creatures. To give zombies personality is quite tricky, and I thought this book did it in a very clever way by showing traces of who they used to be.
The intrigue running through this story and the human relationships kept me going, and even with the first issue delivering a lot of back story, I was fascinated by it and wanted to know more. 

The art is beautiful. It has a painted style, which can sometimes fall flat for me, but the story telling in this book remained dynamic and I could always tell which character was which. My fear was that I would get confused with the vampires and zombies, because they all look similar, but subtle differences between the creatures meant I was never unsure as to who I was looking at. 

The story wraps up well to a satisfying conclusion with a lot of heart. The first issue set me up with an expectation of what was going to happen, but by the end I’d gone on a completely different journey. 

This is a great book for those looking for a solid vampire and zombie story without-okay I have to say it-sparkling skin or teenage angst. 

4 out of 5 stars!