Author Archives: ward

Blood Song: Book 1 of Raven’s Shadow by Anthony Ryan


I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy recently as I am, like thousands of others, writing a fantasy novel. Fantasy was one of my favourite genres throughout my teens (science fiction predictably being another). It was all sparked by a mixture of reading Conan the Barbarian books and comics and also by the fact that I grew up in the 80s and played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. My childhood was awesome.

Apart from A Game of Thrones and Joe Abercrombie I haven’t really read many new fantasy authors as I have been reading a lot more scifi and historical fiction. So after perusing Amazon (sorry bookshops but your fantasy sections are usually lacking), I came across a new author that seemed to have ridiculously good reviews. His name is Anthony Ryan and the book was his debut novel Blood Song: Book 1 of Raven’s Shadow.

Blood Song revolves around a character called Vaelin al Sorna. The book begins with his dad dropping him off at a school that turns out to be the military wing of the Order. These guys are more than just soldiers though – they are the SAS of their particular Kingdom and Vaelin is the best of them.

The first half of Blood Song is basically just Vaelin and his mates at school. Kind of like a violent Harry Potter. It well enough written that you want to keep going with it and by the second half it really starts to pay off. There are a lot of hints that there is more going on. Politically, the King might not be so great and his daughter might also be up to something (as she is hot and therefore suspicious). The Order itself might not be so great ethically and keeps its fair share of secrets. The element of magic is also slowly weaved into the narrative and there are hints of destiny and things going on that I can’t explain without giving too much away.

These added elements make what was feeling a bit of a ‘been there seen that before’ fantasy tale into something a bit deeper. I’m not necessarily saying deep, but by the end I was sufficiently satisfied that interesting things are afoot.

The characters are great and believable with a variety of individual needs and character arcs. The story is well told and written. The fact that the Faith of the Order is one that worships the spirits of the dead and believes that they are being guided and supported by them is an interesting twist because this allows them to justify killing infidels who believe in a deity.

If you like fantasy books you will very probably enjoy Blood Song. Anthony Ryan spins a good yarn which, although at first feels pretty similar and unoriginal slowly evolves into a pretty damn good story. It certainly had me hooked and I have preordered the sequel. Recommended.
Anthony Ryan’s Amazon US page
Anthony Ryan’s Amazon UK link
 

Jupiter Ascending trailer

Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Ascending

The new Jupiter Ascending Trailer is here and it actually looks like it might be pretty good. But as it is impossible to tell how good a film is from a trailer these days, I will reserve judgement. (I’m looking at you, Burton’s Planet of the Apes, and the Wachowski’s Matrix 2 & 3, and, obviously, Prometheus.)

This could, however, be a good trailer for a good film. Just try and ignore the pointy ears thing. Enjoy.

 

 

Real spacesuits of the future

I saw this on IO9.com and thought I would share as they are pretty damned sexy. NASA has redesigned its next range of spacesuits and they seem to be taking science fiction for inspiration. None of these designs are definite as they have to vote on which one is best in the great NASA Suit Off competition. It will be one of these three though.

The spacesuit designs are below and I have put them in order of personal preference as I’m sure NASA reads this website.

In third place, a quite workaday spacesuit that is frankly a bit dull. Although I do like the fact that the astronaut on the right seems to be holding a raygun:
Spacesuit3
In second place, a slightly niftier design. On the left is the suit for ‘working in daylight’ mode and on the right what is ‘in nightclub picking up alien chicks’ mode. I like the fact that on the right his forward leaning pose lets you imagine what he’ll look like if he is arriving by jet pack:
spacesuit2
In first place, a spacesuit form the designers behind Tron (possibly). It’s a bit baggier than in Tron to accommodate the more portly astronaut of the future. If this isn’t picked then NASA have yet again gone for function over style. Which is a shame.
spacesuit1
This is just one step away from the ultimate body hugging spandex costume of the future. When I was a young lad in the early 80s I thought that people in the future would all dress like they did in Buck Rogers.

At work, the outfits will be like Colonel Wilma Deering:

wilma deering

Colonel Wilma Deering


And in the evening they relax Princess Ardala style.
ardala

Princess Ardala

In case you are thinking that this all seems a bit sexist – you can see Buck Rogers wore the same outfit. (For his night attire you can just google.)
buck

 

The Dancers at the End of Time by Michael Moorcock

The Dancers at the End of Time by Michael Moorcock

The Dancers at the End of Time by Michael Moorcock

Where to begin? The unique, bizarre, satirical novel, The Dancers at the End of Time is an experience that is hard to categorise or even explain.

Set millions of years in the future, the book opens with the protagonist, Jherek Carnelian, and his mother, The Iron Orchid, discussing the word “virtuous” on a beach of bleached bones on the shore of a crimson sea after just having had sex. So it is immediately established that the world has changed a fair amount. The characters inhabiting the End of Time are a decadent and dissolute bunch who are immortal and possess almost unlimited power. They amuse themselves by holding ever more elaborate parties in incredible settings. At one such party an alien lands and warns them all that the Earth is about to end along with the entire universe. This is pretty tedious news to the denizens of the distant future as the ‘End of it All’ has been prophesied for so long that it, along with space travel generally, is seen as passé and dull. The alien is consequently ignored.

Into this bizarre immoral society comes Mrs Amelia Underwood – a highly moralistic housewife from the 19th century Brockley. Jherek is fascinated by her and decides to fall in love with and limit himself to just having sex with one person. This is a novel and exciting idea to those from the future and, as it turns out, is quite a challenge.

The Dancers at the End of Time has aliens, time travel, robots, godlike beings, parallel universes and more. It is a tale of the last lovers in the universe and an insane discussion on morality. It is also a bit bonkers in a charming and erudite way with a host of characters and situations that seem almost normal when you are reading it, but sound insane when you are trying explain it to others.

It is actually an omnibus of three novels – An Alien Heat, The Hollow Lands, and The End of All Songs. Consequently, it is a tad long. In my humble opinion, however, that is a good thing. The Dancers at the End of Time is essentially a satirical look at the contrast of Victorian morality clashing with the utterly decadent world at the end of time. It is both funny and inventive. Humanity can now do anything, has done everything, and is just struggling to stay entertained. This results in a stagnant amoral species, that is strangely naive and pointless. By the end of the book you no longer see the opening scene as shocking, it is just the way things are.

I really enjoyed The Dancers at the End of Time but it probably isn’t for everyone. Which is a shame. It’s inventive and fun with some great characters. Recommended.

‘They Live’ selfie

This has been all over the interweb all day, so you have probably already seen it. Some genius has wisely spent his/her time parodying the Ellen selfie taken at the Oscars by changing it to a ‘They Live’ version.

They Live selfie

They Live selfie

By the way, if you haven’t seen ‘They Live’ you should. I would review it but frankly it needs little more said about it than – it’s brilliant. John Carpenter at his almost finest. Go and watch it now. Review done.

Game of Thrones Season 4: A Foreshadowing

Game of Thrones Season 4

Game of Thrones Season 4

In case you are into Game of Thrones and are up to date with the show, here is a treat to get you salivating about Season 4. If you aren’t up to date, you are probably wasting your life and should keep up with everyone else.

Game of Thrones: A Foreshadowing is basically a 15 minute feature that explains how things are going to be even more violent and epic than the previous three. Which is quite a feat. It is based on A Storm of Swords, which is the second part of the third book. I have read it and it’s bloody brilliant, and there is indeed quite a lot of action and general epic goings on. There is also a new trailer I have included below that, which was just released today. You’re welcome. Enjoy.


Now here is a second trailer that only came out today!

Dust by Hugh Howey

Dust by Hugh Howey

Dust by Hugh Howey

Dust is the final part of the Wool trilogy. Don’t read this without having read Wool and Shift first. Obviously. It’s a trilogy.

Dust follows on from the end of the previous two Wool trilogies – which sounds odd I know but if you have read the books, then you will know what I mean. It is difficult to review as the Wool series is full of mystery and questions and almost everything I could say would require a major spoiler alert.

So let’s just leave this as a quick review by saying that Dust nicely answers all the questions left over from the previous stories and satisfactorily ties up all the characters’ individual narratives. It is also bloody good and damned exciting. Enjoy.

Robocop trailer 2

Robocop

Robocop

This is the second trailer for the Robocop reboot. I know that sentence doesn’t exactly scream ‘Wow, here’s something new and exciting’ but it does actually look pretty damn cool and I felt it needed to be shared here. I am fairly confident that the new Robocop will be the best one since the original but frankly, that should’t be too hard. The Verhoeven version will remain a classic of violence, humour and general awesomeness. But I see no reason why the new Robocop can’t forge its own exciting new franchise, and this trailer looks damned good fun. At least now it seems marginally harder to shoot Murphy (Robocop) in the face, which was a design flaw in the original film that bugged the hell out of me as it just seemed so bloody obvious. Now he can, er, tilt his head a bit.

Anyway, here is the trailer. Apologies for the delay.