Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (dir. Burr Steers, 2016)
Silly, entertaining, ridiculous fun. If you enjoy Austen’s novels and are also fond of zombie stories, then this will be perfect for you. If you like your zombie stories post-apocalyptic, then look elsewhere. If you like your Mr. Darcy with bursting britches and soaking wet, then you might also want to skip this. Basically the clue is in the title.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that there are certain people who love Jane Austen’s work, and those that… don’t. However there are those that are familiar with Austen’s stories (either the novels themselves or the endless BBC period dramas and other filmic remakes) but find them a little pompous, dry, and tedious. There are also those that find the serious, dystopian horror of modern zombie stories to be a little too horrific and violent. Good news then, because if this describes you, then Pride and Prejudice and Zombies might be the very compromise you were looking for.
Review: Virtues of War by Bennett R. Coles (Titan Books, 2015)
Action packed military SF novel that is smart, well paced, and a blast to read. Coles’ characters are fascinating flawed heroes who are balancing their personal lives and ambitions with their duties as serving officers. Given the plentiful action, it is surprisingly insightful and joins the ranks of great military SF like Haldeman’s Forever War and Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.
Let’s face it, when it comes to literature I am more a fantasy fan than SF. I might have studied SF, but my first love will always be fantasy. So it came as something of a surprise how much I enjoyed this book. Bennett R. Coles’ Virtues of War is one of those smart SF military fiction novels that dares to be read in two completely different ways. On the one hand you could read it as a straight-up, gung ho, military SF action story and it doesn’t disappoint. There are space battles, planet-side encounters, basically action aplenty. Or, you could read it as a critique of expansionist military regimes, that still has sympathy and empathy for the men and women who serve in the armed forces. I suppose, what I am trying to get at is that Coles breathes life into the old adage about ‘loving the soldier and hating the war’. But, as with all attempts to illustrate concepts and bring them to life, it is more complicated than that, and Virtues is all the better for it.
Review and Comments: Daredevil Season 2 (Netflix, 2016)
Good, but not as great as the first season. It has more fights, explosions, and killing than Season One. It has gone more to the supernatural side of Daredevil stories and lessened the realism significantly. Still does some very clever things with theme and character, but has a more complicated narrative structure that occasionally wobbles and feels a little overfull.
I loved Season One of Daredevil. I thought it was a gritty, ‘realistic’, down-to-earth superhero show that made the incredible seem plausible, did interesting things with character, and focused on telling a good story. It was thematically consistent, and, in terms of genre, kept its sights firmly on the street crime elements that gave it an authenticity and credibility. Season Two didn’t quite hit the same notes for me. Don’t get me wrong, it is still better than the vast majority of other superhero shows, but the first season was so good that this time around my expectations were perhaps a little too high. Of course you can’t really hold the show responsible for not meeting every viewer’s expectations, but when the first season creates them, you really hope that the follow up at least meets them. But there are some aspects that just didn’t work as well for me this time.
Spoiler Free Review: The Fiends of Nightmaria (6th Bauchelain and Korbal Broach Novella) by Steve Erikson (Subterranean Press, 2016)
Bonkers, absurd, silly, fantasy comedy, this time poking fun at dungeon crawls and the often times ridiculous politics of genre fantasy novels… amongst the other usual targets. Sharply written, but did I mention silly, absurd fun? Plus, the Subpress Edition has great artwork.
(Only Slightly) Longer Review:
The king is dead, long live King Bauchelain the First, crowned by the newly en-cassocked Grand Bishop Korbal Broach. Both are, of course, ably assisted in the running of the Kingdom of Farrog by their slowly unravelling manservant, Emancipor Reese.
Another Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (dir. Zack Snyder, 2016)
This one by me.
Not as bad as you have been led to believe, but not the greatest film ever. A Batman focused film that serves to make you hate Superman even more, launches the DC cinematic universe, and make you wish that they had just made a Wonder Woman film and left the men in tights at home. It looks pretty though.
If online reviews and reports are to be believed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is one of the worst films ever made, is a travesty of modern film making, superhero films, and storytelling, and that the entire cast and crew would have been better staying in bed and drinking Mai Tais. Nerds, geeks, comic fans, and film critics have been bizarrely united in their hatred and vitriol concerning this film. Let me be among the first to say that I am shocked, shocked I tell you, to find out that sometimes things on the internet are exaggerated and that their reportage can lean toward hyperbole. BvS will never be my favourite superhero film, but it wasn’t that bad and I have definitely seen far worse (Ghost Rider/Green Lantern/Batman and Robin/Man of Steel). I know that I have already posted my friend’s review of the film, but clearly I think that my opinion is far more important.
Spoiler Free Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (dir. Zack Snyder, 2016)
Guest Review by C Cooper
So three years after Man of Steel, and what feels like an eternity after announcing Batman vs Superman, the DC Universe has finally arrived. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this as I was distinctly underwhelmed by MoS and thought The Dark Knight Rises was dreadfully paced, overlong, and incomprehensible at times. I also took a gamble by going with my wife whose only real exposure to Batman was watching me play Arkham Knight on the Xbox, and that Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain were the definitive Lois and Clark. My expectations were pretty low for the film considering the negative press, but I hoped that the overwhelming hostility from critics was based on what they wanted the movie to be rather than how good it actually is. The trailers hadn’t helped much either – could there be anything about the film not actually spoiled? If this seems like an overlong preamble, all I can say is that it is pretty reflective of the movie.
Image above shamelessly stolen from Mark Lawrence’s Blog
History Repeating: A Return of Violent Machismo to Fantasy and Science Fiction
At the 35th Annual Conference of the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA) in Orlando, March 2014, Stephen R. Donaldson, as a guest on a discussion panel, raised a concern about the apparent rise of violence, nihilism, cynicism, and darkness in modern genre fantasy writing. In particular he singled out what is most commonly referred to as ‘grimdark’, a sub-genre of fantasy popularised and exemplified by authors such as Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence and George R.R. Martin. Although I should mention that he did not explicitly name those authors.
The common (mis)understanding of grimdark is that it is fantasy writing that eschews the tropes of hero, heroic quest and the simplistic morality of good winning out over evil, in favour of a much darker, more cynical fantasy world which is generally graphically and explicitly violent, morally bankrupt (or at the least deeply flawed), and celebrates the dirt, darkness and grittiness of the world. Heroic characters are replaced by violent, sociopathic, immoral or amoral protagonists, who are not so much anti-heroes as villains but on a side less villainous than the other. Good and evil have been replaced by evil and slightly less evil. In many ways a fairly accurate rendering of what the news presents us with on a daily basis, on the hour, every hour.