Category Archives: Blog

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 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

 

The Martian

The Martian

The Martian

The Martian is a new film starring Matt Damon. It’s based on the best-selling book The Martian by Andy Weir and the trailer looks pretty damn good. I have to admit, I haven’t read the book but the movie trailer has made me want to. Which reminds me – I need to read more. The Martian – add to basket.

TIE fighter wars short film

TiefighterThis has been all over the internet already but in case you missed it, here is the much discussed TIE fighter wars short film by Paul Johnson. Basically, the premise is to show a Star Wars space battle from the point of view of the Empire and TIE fighter pilots, done in the style of 80s anime. It is superbly animated.

To be honest I am not a 100% keen on the music but given it’s harking back to a Gundam-esque style of animation, I guess it fits.Anyway, who cares. This is great. Go TIE fighters! Go Empire!

 

Chrononauts optical illusion

First off, take a look at the cover of this new Mark Millar and Sean Murphy comic called Chrononauts. Look at the watch on the left. What do you see? 1 in 15 people will see something different. More on the Chrononauts optical illusion later…

What do you see in the watch face?

What do you see in the watch face?

As I am a bit of a nerd, I still get excited on ‘new comic day’. When I was younger, this meant a trip to the local comic book shop where you would meet all the other cool froods who were similarly into such exciting literature. Now, it just means an email from Comixology letting me know what’s new and then me going online to buy digital copies. But you can still chat to the cool froods in forums and on sites like twitter, which is also where you can find out cool things about the comics and related topics. What’s even better is that the comic artists and writers join in, raising the tone and generally being quite interesting. Which brings me, long-windedly, to the Chrononauts optical illusion.

In the watch face you will see one of the following:

1/ A broken watch face. (What I saw.)

2/ A green hourglass.

Apparently only one person in fifteen will see the hourglass. It’s the comic book fan version of the stupid ‘colour of the dress’ debate. The artist, Sean Gordon Murphy, chimed in on Twitter to explain:

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 7.27.20 pmI don’t know if this is a cunning bit of marketing and there is no optical illusion but I thought I would share just in case it true. If it is an evil marketing trick then kudos Mr Murphy, I like your style.