Friday, 26 May 2017

Movie Review: Get Out

Directed by Jordan peele

Pros: great acting, shows systemic racism, psychological horror

Cons: 

Rose Armitage is bringing her new African American boyfriend, Chris, home to meet her caucasian family. They seem nice, if overeager to prove they’re not racist, but as the weekend progresses, something just feels more and more off to Chris.

I remember a few years ago Cabin in the Woods got a lot of praise for taking horror movie tropes and turning them upside down. Get Out ignores the tropes completely and creates a subtle atmosphere of unease and a truly horrifying reveal. I’m surprised more people aren’t talking about this film, as its reversal of stereotypes makes it unique.

There’s very little blood and gore, depending instead almost entirely on creeping you out in a more psychological way.

I thought the performances were excellent. Daniel Kaluuya as Chris really sold what was going on and his own confusion and uneasiness over seemingly benign encounters. Allison Williams as Rose was also great, especially in the second half of the film. Marcus Henderson (Walter) and Betty Gabriel (Georgina) were amazing. They had to show no emotion for most of the film and the moment when Georgina cries was heart-wrenching.

There’s an underpinning of subtle racism that adds to the horror. Seeing situations from Chris’s point of view it’s hard to ignore the subtext of what’s being said and done, from the cop asking to see his ID to the guests at the party bringing up their ‘black’ connections.


As someone who prefers psychological horror over body/slasher horror, this was terrifying and provocative. It’s highly worth seeing. 

If you have seen the film and want a fantastic breakdown of what's going on, Wisecrack's got you covered.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Shout-Out: The Ship by Antonia Honeywell

London burned for three weeks. And then it got worse...
Young, naive Lalla has grown up in near-isolation in her parents' apartment, sheltered from the chaos of their collapsed civilization. But things are getting more dangerous outside. People are killing each other for husks of bread, and the police are detaining anyone without an identification card. On her sixteenth birthday, Lalla's father decides it's time to use their escape route--a ship he's built that is only big enough to save five hundred people.
But the utopia her father has created isn't everything it appears. There's more food than anyone can eat, but nothing grows; more clothes than anyone can wear, but no way to mend them; and no-one can tell her where they are going.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Video: How Falconry Shaped the English Language

This is a fascinating short explanation of some English phrases that came from falconry by Great Big Story. It's easy to forget how trades, sports, and other activities affect language.

English has so many idioms and I'm always happy when reading SF and aliens call humans out for using expressions that don't make sense or for explanations of strange saying. But I don't think I've ever read a fantasy novel where language was evolving or where the expression is only used in one trade (or class) and someone had to explain it. Which is interesting as most jobs today have specialized vocabulary that outsiders won't necessarily get. When I started working at the bookstore I had to learn 'shrink', 'shelf-talker', 'remainders', 'end cap', etc. meant in this context (or meant at all). Similarly, back when I was a trade show exhibitor, I learned 'pitch', 'draw tip', and several other terms specific to that job.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Graphic Novel Review: Lady Mechanika volume 3: The Lost Boys of West Abbey by M.M. Chen

Pencils by Joe Benitez and Martin Montiel
(collects issues 1-2 of Lady Mechanika: The Lost Boys of West Abbey)

Pros: beautiful artwork, interesting story, great characters

Cons: short

Lady Mechanika hears of a strange murder case where kidnapped urchin boys were found murdered next to mechanical parts. She starts investigating, wondering if this case could lead to information about her own origins.

As with the previous volumes, this one stands alone, though there is a quick, non spoilery callback for the events of volume 2. It’s only two issues, so the story is much shorter than those of the earlier graphic novels (and the price reflects that).

Once more the artwork is gorgeous. The characters have a fun mix of Victorian and steampunk fashions.The cast is widened with the addition of a detective inspector, who I suspect will show up in later volumes.

The cover gallery at the end has some nice pieces. 


I’m loving this series.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

The Warded Man Still Life

Peter V. Brett's fifth and final Demon Cycle book has a name (The Core), covers (with an interesting creation story for how the US and UK covers were designed), and a release date (October 3, 2017 - pushed back from August).



When I worked at the World's Biggest Bookstore, I often went to publisher run bookseller events. SFF wasn't often represented, outside of YA. The Warded Man was the first adult Random House title I was mailed outside of an event, because I specialized in SFF at the store and they wanted to promote the book. So it has a special place in my heart beyond simply being an incredible debut. In 2009, a few months after it came out in the US/Canada I interviewed Mr. Brett, asking questions about the writer life. A few years later, while handselling book two, The Desert Spear, I opened the book and realized my review of it was quoted in the front! For some reason publishers don't notify reviewers when they do this so it was a complete surprise and only one of two instances (that I know of) that this has happened to me.



About a month ago I noticed that Peter V. Brett was hosting a still life contest on his blog. I'd intended to enter and then completely forgot about it. Well, yesterday I saw a twitter post with some of the entries and decided to do it anyway, even though the contest is over now.

Here's what I came up with:



I think the first shot is better, as it shows the scales and other objects closer and at an angle, but I like that you can see that the cloth is a cloak in the second shot. My idea behind this was that Leesha had just entered her hut, thrown her cloak down and was frantically preparing an herbal remedy for a patient (hence the knocked over bottles).

This second scene isn't as detailed (and yes, the hora should be bone not crystal, and warded to boot), but I wanted to do something to honour Inevera, one of my all time favourite characters.


Friday, 19 May 2017

Graphic Novel Review: Lady Mechanika Volume 2: The Tablet of Destinies by M.M. Chen

Pencils by Joe Benitez and Martin Montiel
(collects issues 1-6 of Lady Mechanika: The Tablet of Destinies)

Pros: gorgeous artwork, fast paced story, lots of women

Cons: 

Lady Mechanika returns to London in time to witness the kidnapping of Lewis’ niece. Seems the girl’s grandfather is part of an African expedition uncovering a long lost underground city. And within that city is the tablet of destinies, rumoured to be a powerful weapon.

Once again the artwork is incredible. It’s lush and detailed.

The story’s fast paced, going from one crisis or revelation to another. I enjoyed that this book had several diverse locations, and peoples.

Lady Mechanika’s a fantastic protagonist. I’m impressed with the number of women the series has introduced, and the great costumes they wear (some sexy, others practical).


I’m loving this series.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Shout-Out: Forever On by Rob Reid

The definitive novel of today’s Silicon Valley, Forever On flash-captures our cultural and technological moment with up-to-the-instant savvy. Matters of privacy and government intrusion, post-Tinder romance, nihilistic terrorism, artificial consciousness, synthetic biology, and much more are tackled with authority and brash playfulness by New York Times bestselling author Rob Reid.

Meet Phluttr—a diabolically addictive new social network and a villainess, heroine, enemy, and/or bestie to millions. Phluttr has ingested every fact and message ever sent to, from, or about her innumerable users. Her capabilities astound her makers—and they don’t even know the tenth of it.

But what’s the purpose of this stunning creation? Is it a front for something even darker and more powerful than the NSA? A bid to create a trillion-dollar market by becoming “The UberX of Sex”? Or a reckless experiment that could spawn the digital equivalent of a middle-school mean girl with enough charisma, dirt, and cunning to bend the entire planet to her will?

Phluttr has it in her to become the greatest gossip, flirt, or matchmaker in history. Or she could cure cancer, bring back Seinfeld, then start a nuclear war. Whatever she does, it’s not up to us. But a motley band of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and engineers might be able to influence her.

Forever On achieves the literary singularity—fusing speculative satire and astonishing reality into a sharp-witted, ferociously believable, IMAX-wide view of our digital age.