Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bloodborne: Book Review

Bloodborne, by Gregg Luke

When this arrived in the mail my wife promptly stole it. So she read it first and loved it. When I got to it (my TBR pile is vast...vast) she actually asked me why it took me so long.

I read it over two nights.

I made myself take two nights.

Billed as a medical thriller, Bloodborne moves at an incredible pace, it is a thriller after all and Luke has written quite the page turner.
Medical thriller makes me think of hospitals, but this is also an adventure story. Our protagonist Dr. Erin Cross is minding her own business when someone tries to kill her during a lunch break at the corner deli. Timely intervention from former Spec Ops agent Sean Flannery saves the day, but when assassins keep coming after Erin she needs Flannery's help yet again.

Now what makes this a medical thriller is that Erin isn't just a local Dr. but virologist who has been at the forefront of things like H1N1 and we come to find out that an old associate of hers is trying to bring his own brand of Armageddon to the world. He also wants her dead to cover his tracks in the process.

What I liked:
Luke has some great characterizations and dialogue. The tension is gripping and above all Luke knows his stuff about setting and especially the diseases themselves. He is a pharmacist and studied the H1N1 pandemic in the Yucatan in 2009.
He injects a bit of real life humor into the tale, even having a character giving the alias of Dan Brown, "not the writer, he says". This is funny because Dan Brown's thrillers are about the closest thing I could say Bloodborne reads like. The whole conspiracy goes beyond just a lone nut and is involved with Skull & Bone like Illuminati groups, even to the point of different sects who are opposed to one another. Thats all good.

What I didn't like:
I'm not particularly a fan of Dan Brown and while I loves me a good conspiracy some of the characters behaviors seemed a little unbelievable. Perhaps there was a reasonable answer for this-along with some surprises with the main characters toward the end-but earlier in the book with some of the henchmen I was like, 'Why would they do that?' really?
Things wrapped up neatly while at the same time, I think it would be fair to say it is wide open for a possible sequel.

Regardless, there is no denying Luke's powers of making you turn pages.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Strange Sights of the Week

 Thanks to by Adam K.K. Figueira (and Joe Jusko) for the Swords & Software: Tronan
Viva the Malnutrition

I keep feeling like this needs one more-maybe He-Man?

                                                       I wish I could get this for me kids.
I had to look at this one twice to get it.

My wife said this artist misery guide fit me to an absolute T.

Best recruitment poster ever.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The HEROES: Book Review

The Heroes, by Joe Abercrombie

This is my favorite book of the year so far. Abercrombie packs in the action, intrigue, black humor and surprise twists like nobodies business.

There was a bit of bru-haha earlier this year when Leo Grin did an essay on nihilistic fantasy, I read it and while I suspect I probably agree with Grin on most things, I differed here.

Abercrombie's books are harsh-the violence, the language etc, but I never felt like they were in there for shock value-they were simply there because in harsh circumstances - a War! politeness goes out the window and to me this didn't take anything away from the classic fantasy and myths I treasure.

Some other fantasy titles come to mind as examples of this new bitter view - George R.R. Martin for one and while I have enjoyed Martin's world it has also plodded along and I don't know anyone who was particularly happy with his fourth effort A Feast for Crows. Other books of this type (Morgan & Mievelle) that have been reviewed by friends of mine let me know just enough on IF I want to read them or not-atypically No, because there are just too many other books in the world. Different strokes for different folks.

Meanwhile back to my review, The Heroes is Abercrombies fifth book, all of which are in the same world, this and the fourth are standalone novels, and though I believe you might appreciate them more if you read the First Law Trilogy first - you don't have too, you won't be lost. So no worries to my friends that stay away from series.

On to what its about...

A war is on between the Northmen (similar enough to Vikings) and the Union (similar enough to perhaps an early pre-gunpowder renaissance England). A battle is coming in a tactically worthless valley whose distinguishing charteristic is a set of standing stones, not unlike Stonehenge.
The stones are called The Heroes, a joke because Abercrombies universe is supposed to be nearly devoid of Heroes-or so says the jacket. This may be Grin's point and it is the marketing aspect, but the book is clearly filled with men (and women) trying to do the right thing-figuring out that that is what helps them sleep at night etc etc.
For a heading that reads Three Men, One Battle, No Heroes The Heroes seems awful concerned with showing us both the sinister and heroic-and that is a big reason on why I liked it so much. You can't truly have one without the other.

Like a favorite movie of mine The Big Red One it is also about surviving-but a whole lot of people survive (or die) through heroics-or trying to be a straight edge, as the Northmen call it.
Of course there are some bad, bad, bad, people too but what would a great fantasy be without villains? I wish it had more of the barbaric giant Stranger-Come-Knocking, oh well.

The book is 541 pages. A few parts lagged a little (these were brief short two page chapters) and in my arrogant opinion there might ought have been a little more editing done to clear that out-but by the time I got going 100 pages in or so I couldn't put it down. Abercrombie has some masterful predicaments he throws characters into and leaves you hanging to find out what happens-even with characters I didn't particularly like-and I consider that being a masterful storyteller-when I need to know what happens to characters I don't like as much. And the beauty is, there aren't any predictable nick of time rescues-it all comes across as realistic and true for the setting.

Highly recomended. Almost (but not quite) as good as Abercrombie's third book Last Argument of Kings

I still have a big stack of fantasy titles I want to get through this year, but this is going to be an awful tough one to top.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Man Cave Author Blog and Guilty Pleasures

I have a new post up at the Man Cave Author Blog. I talk about Guilty Pleasures and why I hope bookstores will eventually  come back.

Its all very selfish I assure you.

Monday, August 22, 2011

CONAN: Movie Review with me and the kid.

I took my oldest son with me to see Conan over the weekend.

Shut up. It was in 3D and after the first 20 minutes he wouldn't wear his glasses so he missed stuff (like slave girls). He did get a little scared when Ron Perlman (Conan's father) died.

Anyway, I wasn't going to take him but he was dying to see it. After it was over I asked him what his favorite part was.

The squid monster. - I knew he would say that, he is a sucker for Lovecraftian monsters.

What was you second favorite part?

The squid mask that the bad guy wore. - I should have known considering his propensity for squids and its squiggling when he put it on... (the battle standard looks almost the same as the mask)

OK, besides those things what was your favorite part?

When Conan was a kid and beat up the Picts. - That I can get behind-I'm just proud he knows who the Picts are.

I'm going to try and stray away from comparisons to the old one-they're different enough and the should'a beens for REH's works-all of us that know, know it should have just been an adaption of REH but it wasn't so...

What I liked - Costumes were great and looked real/used/functional etc etc. The action was relatively good and the fight scenes were well choreographed. Momoa was an able Conan-not great, but able. Stephen Lang was good, as a bad guy, and a lot of the extras were reasonably good too.
The settings were epic (reminding me of LOTR in some scenes) and that is all relative in that I am glad we saw real sunshine and not the fake matte 300esque look that I have come to despise. It was alright for 300 but that was trying to mimic Frank Miller's graphic-but other movies should not keep following that look.

As a Sword & Sorcery film (and not a purists vision of Robert E. Howard's Conan) it was all right.

What I didn't like - I am not comparing this to the old Milius/Schwarzengger Conan but...that one had the most excellent movie score by Basil Poledouris-one of the best ever. Conan 2011 had a score that was simply there-it wasn't terrible, but is anyone ever going to recognize it? NO, it will get used  (or was used) for some other movie and no one will ever know.
The heroine (If she can be called that) Rachel Nichols is about as forgettable as they come-I'm glad Conan rode away leaving her behind at the end of the film. She wasn't even convincing as a damsel in distress. Rose McGowan at least you know she is a bad girl-I can buy that, but Nichols? Meh.
The storyline was like one of the lamer Savage Sword story lines except that it had to be a full orgin story and thus dictate the main characters entire lifetime thus far. Meh. Why, oh why, must Hollywood think we have to always have an orgin story? Give us a break.

And what really got my goat-what was with those pronunciations? How did Acheron become ASHeron?
Conan = CoNIN? Cimmeria - SIMMER-ia?
Reminded me of the old Bakshi animated Lord of the Rings when all the characters started called Saruman = Aruman? Like we are gonna get him mixed up with Sauron.

And what was with Morgan Freeman as the narrator at the beginning? Was he bringing some kind of grandfatherly dignity to the prologue? That could have gone to anyone with a good voice and then that doubtless dumptruck load of money could have paid for a better composer for the score.

And finally though I didn't want to bring up comparisons to the old one-the 1982 film had several iconic moments, and lines...the 2011 doesn't. Nobody is going to quote anything from the new one, the lines just aren't there. There is no "What is best in life..." quotes.

I do have to admit that director Marcus Nispel has improved over earlier efforts (that should have been good but weren't = Pathfinder). I am going to chalk it all up and say, I would watch it again someday (but I rewatch lots of movies), I would welcome a sequel - that in theory should be superior. This is ultimately a guilty pleasure movie, but not a great movie, even for an avid fan of the genre.

Now go watch IRONCLAD.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Most Interesting Mormon in the World

I had been considering doing this-someone beat me to it-but its pretty good-though I'm not sure yet if only Mormon's will get the jokes.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bedtime Stories

I was going to post a Conan review, (But I haven't seen it yet) but for your entertainment, my son told me a bedtime story and I am going to share it with you.
Here is the transcript-exactly as he told me.


A kid was awake at night. Something crawled out from under his bed. A blob monster! It opened its mouth, its tongue was long as a snakes tail. But, it was scared of the light. And it blinded his eyes. Then there was a spider, eyes bright as the sun, but it was a super spider, but it was camouflaged. The spider had magical powers. It chased the Blobman away.
The Blobman went to the desert and that is where he lives to this day-on a desert planet named Zorbang; it is like tiny Pluto, but it moves faster than other planets. That is what that planet was called.

I thought he would draw me a picture of this Blobman, instead he drew a scene from his favorite Conan story-The Tower of the Elephant.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Book Review: Chance Damnation, A Tale of the Weird West

Chance Damnation,  A Tale of the Weird West by DeAnna Knippling

From the synopsis ~ One little girl. Buffalo-demons stampede out of the earth to steal one little half-blood girl, and everything changes. Aloysius’s little brother Jerome goes missing with her–two inseparable kids whose friendship is damned from the beginning–as demons replace the newly dead.

A priest with a tainted Bible. A brother with a taste for blood and demon flesh. A fool with a passion for the machinery of Hell. Only Aloysius and his brothers can see the transformation–and there’s not a damned thing they can do about it. Then Jerome returns: he has found a way down into the demons’ Hell, where they twist the little girl’s tortured dreams into a paradise of their own, a place to escape the demons who, in turn, haunt them.


What worked for me. Knippling's prose is quick, visceral and surprising. The setting, in the 1960's of a reservation border town is fresh in regards to the weird western genre and I truly have to admit that I had no idea where the story was going. For me as a nitpicky writer this was something else because I am always predicting what is going to happen in near everything I read or see. Chance Damnation is original.

What I didn't like. I just could not bring myself to root for the characters-there are a lot of colorful characters with their own back stories that Knippling deftly weaves into the story (no infodumps) But I didn't like them, and thus didn't care about them. That and the demons seem to die too easily, it made me feel like where is the mounting danger? Sure, the demons becoming doppelgangers for the towns recently deceased is pretty creepy, but overall it seemed that killing a buffalo demon was a bit too easy.

This may just be a case of taste with the reader, (I fully admit to personally preferring a different stereotypical type of character) and it isn't like Knippling hasn't fleshed them out-she does-they just aren't my kind. Most seemed a bit ignorant, foolish and racist. I hardly felt that the preacher really knew much of anything about the gospel. I would have liked to have seen a stronger Native American presence considering the setting (the main young girl, Celeste Marie is called a half-breed in the tale) but oh well.

You can check out the first chapter here and order a copy here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Strange Sights of the Week

School starts soon enough.

 I was going to go to Renovation but couldn't make it, oh well-still had to share this guide.
I want to know what makes it 'tactical'. Because it isn't the can.

 The answer is Batman.

This Frazetta inspired piece is even better than the one I posted a little while ago.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Set after the loss of the Ninth Legion to the barbarians of northern England, * (See Centurion) we are introduced to a young man, Marcus Aquila, who wants to clear his shamed family name-his father was the general leading the Ninth. While I know that things were often kept to the ruling noble families, I disliked that we are supposed to believe that this "kid" knows things and is more wary than the veterans-yeah right-does anyone really buy that?

The Eagle is based on a book I have not read. And we all know the book is almost always better.
And I hate Channing Tatum. He can't act his way out of a paper bag.


This wasn't too bad. The action is reasonably good, I enjoyed the first battle even if it never gets quite that good again. Marcus gets hurt in battle and is discharged, he gets depressed, but upon hearing rumors that the lost standard of the Ninth, a golden Eagle *(see ROME episode1 why don'tcha?) he decides to embark on the adventure, incredible as it may be, to go behind Hadrians wall and retrieve the Eagle.

He couldn't do it alone and he takes the slave Esca with him. Esca is a native and speaks the various languages of the heather. Esca who despises Rome and all it stands for. But they become fast friends and Marcus learns friends don't keep slaves.

There were some twists and turns but nothing too unexpected or shocking. I like Mark Strong as a survivor of the Ninth's demise who went native.
Overall while this movie wasn't too bad it wasn't too great either.

Of course I wanted to see it - anything with swords & barbarians & romans - but its no Gladiator.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I'm a Manly Man?

I've been interviewed at Matt Shields Finding the Forgotten World blog. He calls me the manliest man west of the Mississippi.

Heh, thanks Matt, I'm humbled while also dubious of the distinction.

But I do appreciate the interview, where I get to talk about inspiration, weapons, story structure and why I can't stand moralizing in fiction.

To repeat, I HAVE NO interest in writing a moralizing tale-I DO have interest in writing about heroics, sacrifice and doing the right thing despite insurmountable odds.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Sean Bean is awesome, he brings such a visceral presence to everything he does. The latest film I've seen of his, Black Death is no exception.

Set in the midst of the black plague sweeping over Europe, rumors of a village that is free of the affliction set in motion an investigation. Osmund, a monk with his own motivations, offers to lead Ulric (Bean) to the village through the marsh.
He finds out along the way that Ulric isn't on a mercy mission or investigation so much as a witch hunt. Word is that a necromancer leads the village in question. We have a few bizarre intrigues along the way as well as a ambush battle.
There are a number of twists and surprise betrayals but nothing that I as a writer and critic didn't see coming.

In a way I felt the movie couldn't quite make up its mind what it wanted to be. There isn't quite enough action to call it an action movie. I wouldn't call it a horror despite a few thrilling moments and the dichotomy of the Christians as liars, fanatical and harsh was held against the pagans who were equally so-the biggest surprise for me was that at first I was expecting the message to be how much better the pagan way of life was-but it wasn't-they were cruel, fanatical liars too.

Maybe the filmakers wanted us to come up with our own answers on WHY- not unlike my recent review of The Bridge if San Luis Rey except this would be more akin to why do bad things happen to bad people than the latter? The ending especially makes you wonder.

Where the movie wins is its realistic portrayal of the grim plague afflicted land. The chaos and brutality of an age on the cusp of enlightenment...but not yet.

IF BLACK DEATH and SEASON OF THE WITCH could have been merged, say eliminate Nick Cage altogether and replace him with Bean = teamed with Perlman, and find that balance between two vaguely similar story lines we could have had a classic. Instead this is just all right - worth a watch once IF you already thought maybe this was a movie for you.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Pulptastic Review

I recieved a great review at Paul McNamee's Blog. I'm especially pleased.


Because I get a kick out of someone unfamiliar with the LDS background being able to enjoy my novel - no strings attached.

Thanks Paul I appreciate the kind words.