Thursday, 26 November 2015

Shout-Out: Skyborn by David Dalglish

Six islands float high above the Endless Ocean, where humanity's final remnants are locked in brutal civil war.
Their parents slain in battle, twins Kael and Brenna Skyborn are training to be Seraphim, elite soldiers of aerial combat who wield elements of ice, fire, stone and lightning.

When the invasion comes, they will take to the skies, and claim their vengeance.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Video: Civil War Trailer

If you haven't seen it yet, the trailer for the next Captain America movie, Civil War, has dropped. And it looks goooood.  I was never a fan of Cap in the comics (I was more of an X-Men rather than Avengers girl), but I love what the films have done with his character.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Book Review: First Lensman by E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith

Pros: interesting plot

Cons: often problematic portrayal of women, surprisingly violent good guys 

Note: The edition I’m quoting is the Science Fiction Book Club Chronicles of the Lensmen Vol. 1, which includes Triplanetary, First Lensman, and Galactic PatrolFirst Lensman starts on page 241. 

Virgil Samms has an idea to create a Galactic Patrol that will monitor the galaxy and keep it safe.  When he and several of his men are given Lenses by the alien Arisians, which allows them to speak mind to mind and read the worthiness of others, he knows the time for his Patrol has come.  But first he must confront the corrupt politics of North America, space pirates and a powerful illegal drug. 

This novel has ADHD.  It can’t decide what it wants to do so it does a bit of everything.  First published in 1950, it’s the second novel in the Lensmen Chronicles.  The story jumps from storyline to storyline, character to character.  While Samms and his friend Rod Kinnison are the main players, their children and several peers are also important.  Be prepared for some interesting leaps of logic that lead to actualities (basically if one of the good guys things something may have happened, it has).  

The book starts slowly, with a chapter of backstory on the two alien races that manipulated things in the first novel, Triplanetary.  The further into the book I got, the less certain things bothered me and the more I was able to enjoy the story.  Things get more action oriented and fast paced later on as well.  When several Lensmen go undercover to discover the full operation of the drug trade, I found myself engrossed.  The final chapters, regarding the US election, were also highly entertaining.

There were a lot of things earlier on in the book that made those chapters challenging for me to get through.  The treatment of Jill Samms was a big one.  I was somewhat horrified by how she and Jack Kinnison treat each other when we first meet them.  They’re casually cruel to each other, constantly threatening to physically beat the other in some way or another.  For example, Jack, tells to a friend who’s shown interest in Jill, “You won’t fall for her either, Mase; you’ll want to pull one of her legs off and beat the rest of her to death with it inside of a week…” (p258).  Jill’s no pushover and gives as good as she gets.  When Jack gets mad at her for not playing her best in a tennis match she tells him, “I’d like to smash this racket over your head!” (p257).  She also accuses him of liking women who are, “little, cuddly baby-talkers, who pretend to be utterly spineless and completely brainless…” (p259).  I was overjoyed when she was considered Lensman material by her male peers - and crushed (not to mention peeved) when it was revealed you had to be male to use the devices.  Her acceptance of the idea Lenses can’t be used by women and subsequent trash talk about the one woman in the future who’d be able to wear the device was rage inducing.  “I gather that she is going to be some kind of a freak.  She’ll have to be, practically, because of the sex-based fundamental nature of the Lens.” (p279).

Jack isn’t the only Kinnison who threatens to beat Jill.  His father mentions a potential spanking several times, something that seems highly inappropriate from the father of her friend.  A similar thing happened between a different Lensman and his wife, that I wasn’t quite sure how to take.  Costigan had just gotten back from a long assignment and told his wife he’d be working late again.  She quips that she’s just happy he’s back.  “Costigan looked at her, decided she was taking him for a ride, and smacked her a couple of times where it would do the most good.  He then kissed her thoroughly and left.” (p.449-450)  I’m not sure if this is meant to show Costigan beating his wife, or merely giving her a playful swat for her cheeky answer.  The tone of the scene makes me think it’s a joke, but if so, it’s a creepy joke that wouldn’t be allowed today.

Yet, throughout the book Jill is portrayed as a strong woman - wearing revealing clothing and not taking any gruff from the men.  It also becomes clear as the book goes on that she’d have done well to have a Lens.  On more than one occasion she has urgent information to impart to the lensmen and has to hope one of them contacts her so she can share it.  I did appreciate that she had a roll in the book that went beyond love interest or disappointed potential Lensman.  Though the book’s use of the term psychology seems to imply things the modern term doesn’t.  She’s able to read people’s intentions by touching them (based on the patterns and speed of their blood flow, which she’s apparently learned to feel through clothing and skin using minimal contact).  Like many things in the book this isn’t particularly well explained.

The book has some other jabs a women, like Rod Kinnison’s complaint that he, “stood by, as innocent as a three-year-old girl baby,” (p319) when something bad almost happened.  I’m not sure how a 3 year old boy would have reacted differently, or less obliviously than a girl of that age.  So it’s a bizarre comment.

All of the alien races, even allies, are described as monstrous, horrible to look at and in most cases, with none worthy to wield Lenses.

I was left questioning how good the ‘good guys’ were when you get the Second Lensman saying things like, “In emergencies, it is of course permissible to kill a few dozen innocent bystanders.  In such a crowd as this though [rich politicians], it is much better technique to kill only the one you are aiming at.” (p305).  Though the Lensmen do have a strange sense of chivalry that doesn’t allow them to kill women, even if those women are dangerous and could pose a future threat to them.

The author uses some weird expressions, like ‘developing a mouse under his eye’ (for black eye) and ‘popping off’.  Some of the words and expressions were easier to figure out from context than others, like Mase calling Jill ‘a regular twelve-nineteen!’.  I’m not sure if some (or all) of these are 50s terms, or if he made them all up.

There’s also lots of techno babble, some with definitions, some without.  A detet, for example, is the distance at which spaceships can detect each other.  Battle scenes were full of made up words, with sentences like this: “All of the Patrol ships had, of course, the standard equipment of so-called “violet,” “green,” and “red” fields, as well as duodecaplylatomate and ordinary atomic bombs, dirigible torpedoes and transporters, slicers, polycyclic drills, and so on;” (pp466-467).  Some of the sentences were really cringeworthy.

The end result is that the story is worth reading, but remember when this was written and accept that it has some problematic elements. 

Friday, 20 November 2015

Shout-Out: The Dark North

This is a kickstarter project that recently met its funding goals.  There's still 11 days left on the campaign, if you're interested.

The Dark North is a coffee table art book telling five myths illustrated by 100 original paintings by five Scandinavian illustrators/artists: Peter Bergting, Henrik Pettersson, Joakim Ericsson, Lukas Thelin, and Magnus "Mojo" Olsson.

Here's some of the interior artwork for the book.

It looks like a beautiful book for dark fantasy lovers.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Video: Texas Chainsaw B&B

Barely Productions (formerly Barely Political) posted this for Halloween, and I thought it was great.  I forgot to post it then, so I'm posting it now. :)  It is based on a horror movie, so expect some... unsavory moments.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Book Review: Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

Pros: fast paced, shows results of addiction and mental illness, interesting story

Cons: surprised Seivarden kept her position

New problems regarding the undergarden on Athoek Station and Queter’s interrogation on the planet occupy Breq, fleet captain, commander of Mercy of Kalr, last ancillary of Justice of Toren, One Esk Nineteen.  When she gets word of four ships entering the system she suspects they’ve been sent by the enemy version of the Radchaai’s split ruler, Anaander Mianaai.

Picking up immediately where Ancillary Sword left off, this book begins with Breq trying to clean-up the loose ends of the previous book.  When the enemy ships arrive in the system, things heat up fast, with several desperate plots to even the odds and take out this clone of the Lord of the Radch.

While the opening’s a bit slow, reminding you of the events of the previous book, things pick up quickly and propel you through the rest of the story.  It’s a fast read.

I was impressed that the author dealt with more repercussions of Seivarden’s addiction and depression and the results of Tisarwat’s manipulations.  It’s great to see a book show that traumas leave scars that take years to heal, and that someone can have good and bad times, depending on circumstances.  Having said that, I’m surprised Seivarden was able to keep her position, considering the breakdown she has.  It’s obvious she’s not capable of dealing with the pressures of command.

While this book can’t wrap up everything going on in the universe, it does give a sense of resolution for the primary characters of the series.   

Monday, 16 November 2015

Shout-Out: Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond + Book Launch

In Paris, James Bond meets his match over appetizers and cocktails—with an aperitif of industrial espionage and chilly sadism. Off the coast of Australia, he learns about a whole new level of betrayal under the scorching light of a ball of thunder. In Siberia, he dreams of endless carnage while his fate is decided by one of his most cunning enemies and perhaps the greatest of his many loves.

And in Canada, James Bond finds freedom.

In January 2015, the world’s most famous secret agent entered the public domain in Canada—one of the few remaining countries in the world that subscribe to the Berne Convention and allow copyright to extend not 70 but just 50 years past the death of the work’s creator. Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond, lives in this shadow space of copyright law: a collection of 19 new, exciting, transformative James Bond stories by a diverse crew of 21st-century authors.

Collected herein are new stories about Secret Agent 007, as the late Ian Fleming imagined and described him: a psychically wounded veteran of the Second World War and soldier of the Cold War, who treated his accumulated injuries with sex, alcohol, nicotine, and adrenaline. He was a good lover but a terrible prospect.

He was James Bond.

And in Licence Expired, James Bond is back.

Licence Expired is a collection of 19 short stories edited by Madeline Ashby and David Nickle.  And if you're in the Toronto area, ChiDunnit and ChiZine Publications are having a launch party for the book tomorrow.  From their facebook page:

ChiDunnit and ChiZine Publications are thrilled to invite you to the launch party for LICENCE EXPIRED: THE UNAUTHORIZED JAMES BOND at 7:30pm on Tuesday, November 17 at Pravda Vodka House (44 Wellington St. East). Costumes and Bond-themed dress is highly encouraged, and there will be prizes for the best costumes.

Come try our signature Bond cocktail, and don't forget to ask for your martini shaken, not stirred. And yes, there will be food.
Editors and authors will be there for readings and book signings.
Prizes and surpises are coming from our generous friends at Grand Touring Automobiles (Aston-Martin), Surmesur, Doll Factory by Damzels, BMB Image Consulting, B's Truly Couture Cupcakes, DJ Wondah (Gorilla Beats), Bakka-Phoenix Books, Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery, and Bicycle Playing Cards. Thank you to all our sponsors!