Submitted by mhare on Mon, 05/13/2013 - 21:26
"Finder" is a science fiction webcomic series by Carla Speed McNeil. She started self-publishing the comic in 1996. The webcomic version dates from 2005. Over the years, "Finder" won several awards. The series focuses on several characters in a far-future distant earth where very little of our time survived. People live in vast domed cities, crowded and decaying, sharing it with a variety of strange creatures, including talking dinosaurs. The world of "Finder" is bizarre, surrealistic, bawdy, and sometimes downright loopy as "Alice in Wonderland" on acid. Interspersed amid all the craziness is a strong dose of social commentary directed at modern media culture and social conventions. The series also examines issues such as fame, celebrity, and class differences. The satire can be sly, if barbed, and other times like a punch to the face. Carla isn't afraid to write things that get a reaction and make you think. Just when you believe you've figured it all out, something happens to make you question your assumptions. "Finder" exists as both a webcomic, which can be found here, and a number of bound volumes. Well worth checking out, I recommend it for those with an open mind to strong material.
Submitted by mhare on Thu, 05/09/2013 - 01:09
Shane Black directing and co-writing a Doc Savage movie? Color me surprised. George Pal directed the only Doc Savage movie in 1975. While the cast was excellent -- the actors chosen to play the fabulous five nailed their roles -- the script was, quite frankly, terrible. I always thought they tried to make a Doc Savage movie too early. "Raiders of the Lost Ark" showed what they could have done, but it did not occur to anyone then to make a more straightforward action film. They chose to go the campy route in the flavor of the old "Batman" TV show and the result was a miserable failure. The same thing happened twenty years later with the Shadow movie. Tongue-in-cheek corn took the place of genuine suspense or action, which was a shame because I can think of several Shadow novels that could have translated well to the big screen. That urge to go campy is the bane of all efforts to make movies of pulp novels and one reason Hollywood has been leery of them. Of all the pulp novels, Doc Savage sits squarely in the tradition that inspired "Raiders of the Lost Ark". Handled right, with a script that respects the source material and stays smart, more along the lines of "The Avengers" and "Iron Man" meets "The Untouchables" and "McGuyver", it could be a winner. Another possible Doc Savage movie has kicked around the back lots of Hollywood for decades. Arnold Schwarzenegger once expressed interest in playing Doc. (I am so thankful that didn't happen.) I thought it would end up another one of those movie projects everyone talked about but no moved on, so I was pleased to learn that Shane Black, the director behind the recent "iron Man 3", signed on with Sony Pictures to develop a Doc Savage movie. He had expressed interest in the project before, way back in 2009, but continually got stalled. Now fresh off his stellar opening weekend for "Iron Man 3", he has stated "Doc Savage" will be his next film.
Submitted by mhare on Tue, 04/30/2013 - 23:49
Until one summer afternoon by the sea in 1976, the McKotch family seems on top of the world, despite the growing fractures and fault lines running invisibly beneath of the surface of a quietly dysfunctional New England family. Watching his daughter swim next to her cousin, it becomes apparent to Frank that something is seriously wrong with her. Twelve year old Gwen is far too small for age. She has Turner syndrome, a genetic disorder that would keep her in a child's body all her life. The discovery of her condition triggers the gradual unraveling and self-destruction of the family, setting in motion the plot of the novel "The Condition" by Jennifer Haig.
Submitted by mhare on Thu, 04/18/2013 - 22:23
I first wrote about "Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo" in one of my monthly spotlights. You can read my initial review here. I won't rehash the plot but instead jump straight to my overall impressions of the series.
Yesterday I got around to watching on Crunchyroll the final episodes of "Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo" (The Pet Girl of Sakura Hall). I came away highly impressed. The series stands now as one of my favorites. Throughout the series, the show kept its emphasis on the characters and that choice paid off handsomely toward the end. Each character seemed like a real person, with real needs, worries, and desires. Nearly all the characters had their time in the sun and a chance for development. Even Maid-chan, Ryunosuke's computer AI, got some development. I'm thinking of a touching scene where Maid-chan pretends to suffer from a bug in order to give Rita vital background information about Ryunosuke. Yes, the series veered wildly toward the sentimental and the melodramatic in the final episodes. It bordered on the cheesy and the hammy without going over the line, but that is what made it so striking. It's actually uncommon to see so many raw emotions on display so vividly in a Japanese film or anime. The fact that the viewer had become invested in the characters by that point gave the melodrama some weight and when the characters make mistakes, most of the time they seemed like the sort of real mistakes people make and not the ones invented by writers for the sake of drama.
Submitted by mhare on Sun, 03/24/2013 - 22:18
Matthew Reilly is one of the growing number of self-published authors whose works attracted enough attention to get picked up by a mainstream publisher. His first book, “Contest”, written at 19, originally saw publication in a limited 1000 book run. “Ice Station”, his second book and the first book of his I ever read, put him on the map as a player in the action/adventure genre. “Scarecrow Returns” is the sixth book in the Scarecrow series, which focuses on the adventures of a Marine named Captain Shane Schofield, code named Scarecrow. Shofield, like other Reilly heros, inhabit the mantle left by Doc Savage, The Shadow, and others. Pulp sensibilities are the lifeblood of the books and it is never more apparent than in this particular adventure, a mission to stop a mysterious group of terrorists, the Army of Thieves, from using a secret weapon at an abandoned Russian research facility hidden in the Arctic called Dragon Island. The catch is Schofield and his team, a mismatched group of Marines, scientists, and a little robot named Bertie, have a deadline of five hours to stop the Army of Thieves from using the weapon to destroy the northern hemisphere. A team of French assassins sent by the French government to kill Schofield in retaliation for actions in an earlier book in the series complicates the mission.
Submitted by mhare on Mon, 03/18/2013 - 21:19
In an unexpected development, Honor Harrington had spearheaded a peace mission to Haven resulting in the end to the war. “A Rising Thunder” picks up with the aftermath of the successful peace mission, which couldn't come too soon. Manticore still reals from the devastating attack on their home system that occurred in the previous volume. Mesa and Manpower have started moving against Manticore using the Solarian League as their stalking horse. Manticore finds itself faced with a possible war with Earth, their war infrastructure critically damaged, and the only unlikely ally able to help is the Republic of Haven, their former enemy. Against the backdrop of steadily rising political tension marked by economic warfare and public relations positioning, “A Rising Thunder” is a long, slow prelude that features Manticore, Haven, Mesa, and the Solarian League engaging in a deadly game of maneuvering as each prepares for the inevitable clash of arms, although the tension soon turns hot when the bureaucrats running the League decides to bypass the Assembly and send a putative expedition to Manticore.
Submitted by mhare on Tue, 02/19/2013 - 21:14
Chronologically, “The Rope” stands as the first book in the Anna Pigeon series by Nevada Barr. The novel focuses on Anna as she flees Manhattan in the wake of the sudden death of her husband, Zach, and takes a seasonal job as an assistant in the National Park around Lake Powell, Utah. Anna goes on an impromptu solo hike without adequate preparation or telling anyone where she's going. She stumbles across three men raping a young girl. Next thing she knows, she wakes up naked at the bottom of a solution hole or natural sinkhole with a bruised skull and dislocated shoulder. Fear sets in when she discovers the body of the girl with her in the hole, who is identified by a bracelet as “Kay”.
Submitted by mhare on Wed, 02/13/2013 - 21:21
While writing the recent set of capsule reviews for anime I've watched but haven't yet blogged about, it dawned on me that I kept repeating "stereotypical characters" a great deal. While writing the review of "Oniai", that realization made me stop to ask what exactly I meant by that, raising in turn more questions. What is a stereotype? Are they all necessarily bad? Can they serve some valid purpose?
Let's start with the definition found in the Oxford Dictionary: "a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing". The word itself, "stereotype", conjures the image of something printed or etched (the word originated in 1798 to describe a printing plate that duplicated any typography) . Most writers are told to avoid stereotypes because their use indicates a poverty of imagination or else hackneyed writing. Stereotypes is an easy way to create characters because writing rounded, believable characters is hard, probably one of the hardest tasks any writer faces.
Submitted by mhare on Tue, 02/05/2013 - 22:00
Doc Savage # 7: The Lost Oasis and the Sargasso Ogre
First published back-to-back in 1933, “The Lost Oasis” and “The Sargasso Ogre” stand as two of the great early Doc Savage pulp novels. Some fans consider “The Sargasso Ogre” to be one of the best, if not the best, Doc Savage adventure. I tend to agree. While both are highly imaginative and inventive, intensely colorful, and full of great action and suspense, “The Sargasso Ogre” sticks in memory and lingers with you. Yes, they are pulp novels, but they are also fun. You get the impression Lester Dent, the man behind the pen name Kenneth Robeson, had a blast writing these tales and it shows. Even the main characters have that same enthusiasm and enjoyment.
Submitted by mhare on Tue, 01/22/2013 - 20:19
The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1)
A brilliant and precocious young boy named Kvothe becomes determined to follow the path of magic and music after the murder of his parents by a mythical and mysterious set of supernatural entities called the Chandrian. “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss, first in a trilogy, chronicles the boy's youth and first years at the University. Told as a first person narration by Kvothe years later while working as an innkeeper, the tale manages to charm and delight through a combination of excellent prose, vivid characters, consistent world building, and good plotting. The combination even manages to overcome all the parts that leave a “seen this, done that” impression, giving instead the feeling of reading something fresh despite all the many elements that border on cliché or familiarity. That alone makes the book stand out. The result is a literary tour-de-force.
Submitted by mhare on Mon, 12/31/2012 - 19:54
This horror novel from 1981 focuses on Scott Gardiner, a young man obsessed by a role-playing game called “Hobgoblin” based on Irish mythology. Affected by the simultaneous unexpected death of his father and the “death” of his RPG character, Scott retreats into the game, finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish fantasy from reality. The process accelerates when his mother takes a job as curator at an authentic Irish castle imported to America. Strange things begin happening, leading Scott to believe real hobgoblins and other supernatural creatures haunt the castle.
Submitted by mhare on Mon, 11/19/2012 - 19:55
Most people would recognize the movie “The Ninth Gate”, which starred Johnny Depp and featured Roman Polanski in the director's chair, before associating it with the original book, “The Club Dumas”. Readers familiar only with the movie will find a number of important divergences between book and film. The film keeps the opening act of the book but ditches everything else, including the plot line that gives the book its title. Viewed through the prism of the book, the film comes across as lightweight and confusing because it ignores or leaves behind some of the more interesting material, scenes, and character connections. By the same token, critics and readers alike seem to have trouble with “The Club Dumas” due to its complex inter-textual nature, weaving books and the love of books through several separate and distinct strands that come together only in the end without ever quite connecting. The two most prominent strands seems to puzzle readers because of how they contrast: the hiring of Lucas Corso by Varo Borja to recover a rare book called “The Book of the Nine Doors” which supposedly allows the reader to summon the devil, and the acquisition by Corso of the original manuscript for a chapter from “The Three Musketeers”. Each strand drives the story but it's not always clear how or why and many readers (and critics!) seem to prefer the first strand to the second, considering the Dumas strand unnecessary and distracting when in fact it may be essential to the plot. Stir in some lengthy – if fascinating to a bibliophile – meta discussions about books, authors, and great novels (which presumes more than a nodding acquaintance of Dumas, Melville, and Sabatini), garnish with a dash of the supernatural, and the result is a real love or hate it affair for many readers.
Submitted by mhare on Sun, 11/11/2012 - 16:31
I've been on a nine day tour of Switzerland and Austria so I haven't had the time to post anything since the end of October. I got back to the States last Friday, but jet lag and a brief illness, compounded by other factors, have kept me down pretty much through today. I hope to resume posting by tomorrow or Tuesday at the latest. I took over a thousand pictures, of which only a third are decent. I will set up a Flickr account and post the best to there by the end of the month. I'll post a link to the account once finished.
Submitted by mhare on Thu, 10/25/2012 - 23:32
For my money, volume three is the point in the series where Girl Genius gathers full steam and blasts off. This volume, and the next three, are among the highlights of the series so far. This is the volume that turned me into a fan, impressing me on several levels.
The volume opens where the last one ended, with Agatha holding the talking white cat, who introduces himself as Krosp, the King of Cats. In the next scene, the Baron has Othar strapped to a table, about to perform a procedure. In the dialogue, the Baron mentions his wife, an important plot point late in the series. After several interruptions, Bangladesh DuPree, everyone's favorite maniacal psychopath, arrives with information about a mysterious apparition appearing in midair, which looks just like the blue window from the first volume, only featuring Agatha, Gil, and von Zinzer. This window, assumed by many fans to be a time window, remains an unsolved mystery as of the current volume. Sometimes the Foglios set something up and wait several volumes or more before paying it off, often to good effect.
Submitted by mhare on Wed, 10/24/2012 - 19:48
There are several reasons I have not posted as much this month as in earlier months. One is a backlog of books I'm reading, shows I'm watching, and manga I'm catching up on. I haven't had the time to make as much headway with it as I had hoped. Mostly, I've been bedeviled with computer problems. While I now do most of my work with the website on my Linux computer, many vital tasks remain rooted on my elderly Windows PC. All my writing, photography editing, music composition, and other things I still do on Windows only because of the specialized software.