Author Archives: ward

The Wonder by James Devo

The Wonder Blood Red-AdvertI just finished this book on a long train journey, which is a perfect place to read it. The Wonder by James Devo is the sort of book you should, and probably will, read in big chunks. A primary reason for this is that it is pretty damned exciting and it is therefore annoyingly hard to find a spot to pause and do things necessary sustain your existence. Another reason is that it has a pretty large cast, and there is a tiny risk you will become confused with some of them. I say ‘tiny’ because the characters are strong and memorable and if I can remember who is who then most people should. Also a train feels pretty steampunk (especially in Thailand where I live and trains are old), so barring a handy nearby steam fair it was a good setting to read uninterrupted. But before I get ahead of myself, I had better mention what the book is about.

The Wonder is set in a fantasy/steampunk kind of world and it is a very believable and well thought-out one. People travel using huge vessels that glide along artificial ice. Ancient technologies abide, alongside new adapted versions of old school tech. Warriors fight with swords and magically enhanced guns, while science types create strange and wonderful new ways of killing people en masse. There are elves fighting giant steam powered robot/mechanoids and mind-controlled soldiers that self immolate when cornered. There are… a ton of pretty cool things. I really enjoyed the world that was created and it never becomes too much info to take on. I’ve read fantasy and scifi books where you can be halfway into it and still aren’t quite sure what the balls is happening. Then there are others that info-dump at the start and prove tedious. That doesn’t happen here, you learn in mid-action.

The eponymous ‘Wonder’ is what underpins everything in Devo’s world. It is basically like magic, except that it is a substance. It can be used for weapons or making entire cities work. (A bit like Uranium but without all the cancer.) I’m being simplistic though, it is actually a quite well thought out magic system with different types of wonder doing different functions, which is quite a refreshing take on these sorts of things. Red wonder powers everyday stuff like lights, transport, and handheld weaponry. Green affects the mind and the flesh. Blue is powerful and rare and does all sort of powerful and mystical stuff.

As I said earlier, the characters are great and varied. From gentleman adventurers to psychopaths – and those are the heroes – I found the people in the story great fun and occasionally slightly disturbing. Often at the same time. There were moments when there almost started to be a couple too many but it is handled well, the characters are great, and they all have a function and satisfying story arc. And I love a good arc. Also, Devo isn’t averse to killing a couple off every now and then, so you never feel too overwhelmed. Backstories, and most information, are told as the story goes on and they are normally a welcome pause in the action – although quite a few get pretty exciting themselves.

I feel I should stop here as I have gone on a bit. I tend to stick to straight fantasy or straight science fiction and rarely veer off into cyber/steam/diesel/bio/spunk- punk genres. (Ok, I made the last one up, but it sounds like a fun sub-genre.) I get sent a lot of things to review and normally stick to what I know. But I’m glad I gave The Wonder a go as it was truly great read. A rip-roaring one, even. To summarise all the above – I liked The Wonder a lot and you probably will too. Give it a go.

The Wonder: Book 1 – Blood Red by James Devo will be out on the 21st November, swiftly followed by Book 2 – Deep Blue. Keep an eye out.

Here is the trailer:

 

 

Every Doctor Who story from best to worst

13 Doctor Who actors

13 Doctor Who actors

I saw this on io9 and just had to share. Doctor Who can be ridiculously hit and miss at times but no matter how much it misses, it remains a much loved TV show across the world. Probably because when it is a hit, it is just superb. Or maybe because so many of us grew up watching it. Or it’s just fun. Whatever.

Someone at the superb io9 site has rated every single episode and ranked it in order. Which is a superb achievement and I feel obliged to share the link. I know what I will be watching for the next few days. Enjoy:

Every Doctor Who episode from best to worst

Bryan Singer to direct 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

20,000 leagues under the sea

20,000 leagues under the sea

A new film version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea has been talked about for a while. I’m a bit shocked they haven’t ‘reimagined’ a gritty version for TV already, let alone spent a wad of cash on a CGI-filled summer spectacular action flick. Well, it looks like it might finally happen with Bryan Singer at the helm. (Like my nautical-speak there?)

This should be a good thing as Singer is generally pretty decent. The news came out on Twitter:

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 7.50.18 pm

I remember watching the James Mason version from the 50s when I was a kid and I loved it. I also reread the book by Jules Verne recently, so I am something of a fan. I am a bit curious about how they will do it. Will they stick to the original novel where Nemo is an Indian and is a kind of terrorist/scientist/angry-man-of-the-sea? He’s an awesome character in 20,000 Leagues and Mysterious Island.

Personally, I think they should keep it in the period of the book. I nearly always think that though as I I like the settings of Scifi classics and don’t see the need for modern updates (apart from budgetary needs I guess). I’m looking at you, War of the Worlds.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is one of the books I can’t believe hasn’t been redone. I think Jules Verne and HG Wells need to be looked at again (Hollywood I’m talking to you). Stephen Baxter’s The Time Ships would be good too (official sequel to Time Machine and absolutely brilliant). Actually I could list books that need doing for pages. If any major Hollywood studios want suggestions my email is Scifiward@gmail.com. My fee is surprisingly cheap.

 

 

The Martian book review

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir

I have had The Martian by Andy Weir on my kindle for a while now. I had heard it was good and that it was about an astronaut stranded on Mars but for some reason that hadn’t sounded as appealing as it should and was on my ‘I will eventually get round to that’ list. I don’t know why, I love science but I am incredibly complex. Then the first trailer came out for the movie and I thought it looked amazing. I put that out on this very website and a lot of friends I respect mentioned how great the book was.

So I gave it a go. The next day I was done and if I didn’t have a job, I would have been done sooner. The Martian is a brilliant  book. Absolutely superb. It has probably leapt onto my list of favourite books ever and I feel a bit of a dick for not having read it before.

Ok, here is a synopsis. A short one. Mark Watney is an astronaut and he gets stranded on Mars. That is all you need to know.

The characterisation is superb and the story is told in a mixture of 1st and 3rd person.

The Martian is one of the few books where you feel confident that the science is spot on, and shows you how important and incredible it can be. It is also one of the very few books that genuinely made me laugh out loud.

As you can tell, I loved it. The Martian by Andy Weir.

The future as predicted by science fiction authors

Apart from things like Alternate History, Star Wars, and science fiction written in the past about a date that was the future then, but in the past now, (like 1984,) and a ton of other exceptions, most scifi is set in the future. Sometimes the deep future. I saw this infographic the other day and it is plotted and designed well enough that I thought I would share. It also includes a surprising amount of stuff that I haven’t read.

There are quite a few things that I would include but maybe they are problematic. SPOILERS FOR TONS OF THINGS AHEAD… Obvious inclusions to me would be start with Battlestar Galactica (recent version) or some Stargate related mythology (there are books, so it counts). I would then end with Restaurant at the End of the Universe or even better, Moorcock’s Dancers at the End of Time (which kind of finishes beyond the end of the Universe). Also, some of Stephen Baxter‘s work ends with intelligences mining the last black holes after the end of stars and in Star Trek, Q has taken people to the extremes of time, although maybe not in books. Now I think about it, James Blish’s Cities in Flight ends with immortal humans checking out the end of the universe. Even Dune isn’t mentioned. But having nerded out on all that, the infographic is interesting.

So having complained a lot, enjoy…

futureevents_giorgialupi_large1

Fastest spaceship in the galaxy

Fastest ship in the Universe

Fastest ship in the Universe

Han Solo claimed the Millennium Falcon could do the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs. Which is presumably a speed race with the winner being the spaceship that can go the furthest distance in a specific time, as a parsec is a measurement of distance. But Han Solo lived ages ago. Plus, it is possible that he and the Falcon are fictional.

What about other space going vessels that may or may not be real? Which one of them is the fastest spaceship in the universe? I have literally fallen asleep pondering this.

The good people at Fat Wallet have come up with a handy chart, rating tons of known fiction/non-fiction space ships for speed. The first half are rated by how much G they pull on acceleration. Once the speeds go past that of light (at which point we are talking probable fiction), then they are rated by light seconds.

I should point out I disagree with a few of these. What about when navigators in Dune fold space, or popping into another dimension, or using wormholes? I’m thinking Skylark of Space, Babylon 5, DS9, Stargate (when a shuttle goes through a gate) and many more.

However, the fastest spaceship is unlikely but totally correct – you’ll see what I mean. I found this fun, so thought I would share.

(Thanks Fat Wallet http://www.fatwallet.com/blog/fastest-ship-in-the-universe/)

Fastest-Ship-in-the-Universe_IG

 

Daredevil TV show review

Daredevil

Daredevil

If you have Netflix and are even vaguely interested in superheroes, then you have probably already seen Daredevil and are probably a huge fan. I could cut this review short and just say ‘Daredevil is awesome!’ but it is one of my charming personality traits that I like to waffle on a bit.

In case you are unlucky enough to have not read any of the comics – or lucky enough to have missed the Ben Affleck movie – a quick origin story is necessary. When Matt Murdock (Daredevil) was a kid he unfortunately got radioactive waste spilled onto his eyes. As all comic book fans know, radioactive anything is great and always gives you superpowers of some kind. In Matt Murdock’s case, all his other senses get massively enhanced. Having a crap is presumably an horrendous experience, but generally speaking his new powers make him pretty amazing.

Matt also becomes a lawyer. He deals righteous justice as the Daredevil and as a lawyer in Hell’s Kitchen, New York.

Kingpin aka Wilson Fisk

Kingpin aka Wilson Fisk

One of the great things about the Netflix Daredevil show is that they take their time introducing the backstory, spreading it over several episodes. Frankly, I am bored of origin stories and the advantage of a TV series is that nothing is hurried. You don’t even meet the main bad guy – Kingpin (aka Wilson Fisk) until around episode three. Which is a shame because he is superbly portrayed by Vincent D’Onofrio, but this is made up for with a ton of screen time later. Actually, all the actors are great, as is the script.

The fight scenes are well done too and there are moments when I found myself wincing in sympathy as Daredevil gets the shit kicked out him at various points. He really takes a beating. A very well choreographed beating.

Anyway, no need to labour my point. I loved Daredevil, but it took me a couple of episodes to get into it. Basically, from when Kingpin entered the series. Then I was hooked and pretty much binge-watched the rest. Here is a lovely trailer.

2015 British Fantasy Awards Shortlists

This may not be of interest to everyone but I have found that Scifi fans are frequently fantasy fans. I know I am. So if you are looking for something new read, then what better way than a shortlist of the best British Fantasy? (Apart from perhaps a world shortlist.) Without further ado:

Best Anthology

  • The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic 2, ed. Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber (The Alchemy Press)
  • Horror Uncut: Tales of Social Insecurity and Economic Unease, ed. by Joel Lane and Tom Johnstone (Gray Friar Press)
  • Lightspeed: Women Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue, ed. Christie Yant (Lightspeed Magazine)
  • The Spectral Book of Horror Stories, ed. Mark Morris (Spectral Press)
  • Terror Tales of Wales, ed. Paul Finch (Gray Friar Press)

Best Artist

  • Ben Baldwin
  • Vincent Chong
  • Les Edwards
  • Sarah Anne Langton
  • Karla Ortiz
  • Daniele Serra

Best Collection

  • Black Gods Kiss, Lavie Tidhar (PS Publishing)
  • The Bright Day Is Done, Carole Johnstone (Gray Friar Press)
  • Gifts for the One Who Comes After, Helen Marshall (ChiZine Publications)
  • Nick Nightmare Investigates, Adrian Cole (The Alchemy Press and Airgedlámh Publications)
  • Scruffians! Stories of Better Sodomites, Hal Duncan (Lethe Press)

Best Comic/Graphic Novel

  • Cemetery Girl, Charlaine Harris, Christopher Golden and Don Kramer (Jo Fletcher Books)
  • Grandville Noël, Bryan Talbot (Jonathan Cape)
  • Saga, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
  • Seconds, Bryan Lee O’Malley (SelfMadeHero)
  • Through the Woods, Emily Carroll (Margaret K. McElderry Books)
  • The Wicked + The Divine, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (Image Comics)

The Robert Holdstock Award for Best Fantasy Novel

  • Breed, KT Davies (Fox Spirit Books)
  • City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett (Jo Fletcher Books)
  • Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge (Macmillan Children’s Books)
  • A Man Lies Dreaming, Lavie Tidhar (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • The Moon King, Neil Williamson (NewCon Press)
  • The Relic Guild, Edward Cox (Gollancz)

Best Film/Television Episode

  • Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Alejandro González Iñárritu (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
  • Black Mirror: White Christmas, Charlie Brooker (Channel 4)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn and Nicole Perlman (Marvel Studios)
  • Interstellar, Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan (Paramount Pictures)
  • Under the Skin, Walter Campbell and Jonathan Glazer (Film4 et al)

The August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel

  • The End, Gary McMahon (NewCon Press)
  • The Girl With All the Gifts, M.R. Carey (Orbit)
  • The Last Plague, Rich Hawkins (Crowded Quarantine Publications)
  • No One Gets Out Alive, Adam Nevill (Macmillan)
  • Station Eleven, Emily St John Mandel (Knopf)
  • The Unquiet House, Alison Littlewood (Jo Fletcher Books)

Best Independent Press

  • The Alchemy Press (Peter Coleborn)
  • Fox Spirit Books (Adele Wearing)
  • NewCon Press (Ian Whates)
  • Spectral Press (Simon Marshall-Jones)

Best Magazine/Periodical

  • Black Static, ed. Andy Cox (TTA Press)
  • Holdfast Magazine, ed. Laurel Sills and Lucy Smee (Laurel Sills and Lucy Smee)
  • Interzone, ed. by Andy Cox (TTA Press)
  • Lightspeed, ed. John Joseph Adams (Lightspeed Magazine)
  • Sein und Werden, ed. Rachel Kendall (ISMs Press)

The Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer

  • Edward Cox, for The Relic Guild (Gollancz)
  • Sarah Lotz, for The Three (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Laura Mauro, for “Ptichka” (Horror Uncut: Tales of Social Insecurity and Economic Unease)
  • Den Patrick, for The Boy with the Porcelain Blade (Gollancz)
  • Jen Williams, for The Copper Promise (Headline)

Best Non-Fiction

  • D.F. Lewis Dreamcatcher Real-Time Reviews, D.F. Lewis (D.F. Lewis)
  • Ginger Nuts of Horror, ed. Jim McLeod (Jim McLeod)
  • Letters to Arkham: The Letters of Ramsey Campbell and August Derleth, 1961–1971, ed. S.T. Joshi (PS Publishing)
  • Rhapsody: Notes on Strange Fictions, Hal Duncan (Lethe Press)
  • Sibilant Fricative: Essays & Reviews, Adam Roberts (Steel Quill Books )
  • Touchstones: Essays on the Fantastic, John Howard (The Alchemy Press)
  • You Are the Hero: A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, Jonathan Green (Snowbooks)

Best Novella

  • Cold Turkey, Carole Johnstone (TTA Press)
  • Drive, Mark West (Pendragon Press)
  • Newspaper Heart, Stephen Volk (The Spectral Book of Horror Stories)
  • Water For Drowning, Ray Cluley (This Is Horror)

Best Short Story

  • “A Change of Heart”, Gaie Sebold (Wicked Women)
  • “The Girl on the Suicide Bridge”, J.A. Mains (Beside the Seaside)
  • “Ptichka”, Laura Mauro (Horror Uncut: Tales of Social Insecurity and Economic Unease)
  • “A Woman’s Place”, Emma Newman (Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets)