Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff, myself, and another couple caught Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on Sunday night at the best movie theater ever.* I thought the movie itself was OK, maybe better than Temple of Doom but far short of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Then again, Raiders is probably one of my top 5 films of all time, so I wasn’t expecting Crystal Skull to be as good as that film. I went in with lowered expectations, so perhaps that’s why I enjoyed it as much as I did. Either that or the beer.*

In some respects, the movie captured the fears of the era – Commies/Communism and Aliens, but the execution was slightly off. I also have to say, unlike many film trailers, the trailer for Crystal Skull didn’t give away too much of the film. My biggest problem was that in the three other Indy movies, Indy took charge and led the expeditions. Here, he seemed more a passenger on the ride. That and he found the plot device – the Crystal Skull – much more quickly than the other plot devices in the previous films. On the one hand it seemed a little too easy, but on the other finding the object wasn’t the quest of the move as much as returning it was. I also though Shia LaBeouf did a pretty good job, which surprised me especially after that piece of garbage Transformers where all he seemed to say was “No no no no.”

So, was it worth the wait? It's been almost 20 years so maybe they should have waited that exact amount of time. Nonetheless, I think Indiana Jones films need to be seen on the big screen – the action in this one never stopped and there were some great effects. Ever since (and probably before, but I hadn’t really noticed until then) The Phantom Menace Lucas seems utterly obsessed with chase scenes. That is fairly evident in Crystal Skull. I will see the movie again if for no other reason to see how much I enjoy the film without the assistance of my friends from the Yuengling family, but probably not in theaters. A number of people will not buy into the plot device (which was the case with Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff), but like the plot devices in the entire franchise, it it is otherworldly. In the end, it was a fun ride but something that could have been more.

*The Cinema Cafe Pizza Special - $25.75 includes 2 movies tickets (Adult, Child, or Senior), large pizza, pitcher of beer or soda which is also available for all showings. How can you beat that when a standard multiplex theater charges $8-$9 for one ticket?!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt

I posted up my review of T.A. Pratt’s first Marla Mason novel, Blood Engines yesterday. As my review indicates, I really liked the book and overall, think Pratt’s entry in the Supernatural Fantasy / Modern Day Sorcerer subset of Speculative Fiction is as good as any I’ve read so far. Granted, it is tough to truly judge a series only two books in against a juggernaut series like The Dresden Files (10+ books) or Anita Blake (16+) books, but so far I can see myself tearing through this series much like I am now with Dresden. While Pratt’s work has a good deal in common with his genre peers, he also does enough different to distinguish the series and Marla as her own.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Books in the Mail (W/E 5/24)

Lord Tophet by Gregory Frost – this is the direct sequel to Shdowbridge, which I really enjoyed earlier this year. This is probably the book I’m looking forward to reading the most from this week’s haul.

The Velvet Chair by Jennifer Stevenson - hot-blooded romantic fantasy--the follow-up to "The Brass Bed"-- the sexy, supernatural adventures of a feisty heroine and her lusty 200-year-old demon sidekick continue.

The Age of Conglomerates by Thomas Nevins – after reading the description copy that came with the book, I was slightly reminded of David Louis Edelman’s Infoquake.

Now that they are in power, there are no more checks and balances. The Conglomerates, and their mysterious party chairman, have taken over everything and everyone. There is no one left to stop them. Forty years in the future, in a world where Big Brother runs amok, a powerful political party known as the Conglomerates has emerged, vowing to enforce economic martial law at any cost. Dr. Christine Salter, director of genetic development at a New York medical center, is in charge of “genetic contouring,” the much-in-demand science of producing the ideal child. But Christine is increasingly troubled by odd events, including the strange disappearance of Gabriel Cruz, a co-worker for whom she has a developing affection, and the fact that her latest assignment–making the Conglomerate chairman more youthful through genetic engineering–is an especially dangerous task.

The Man with the Iron Heart by Harry Turtledove – the master of Alternate History’s latest twisting of the past. Here, Hitler’s number 2 man Reinhard Heydrich, was not assassinated in 1942 changing the outcome of WWII and the rest of history drastically.

The Guy in the Hat and the Realm of the Shiny Craniums by James Rollins. Some tie-in to a little movie now in theaters.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Implied Spaces and a Sample Chapter

I just posted up my latest review, Implied Spaces by Walter Jon Williams. There was a lot going on in the novel, Williams managed to throw in just about every subgenre of speculative fiction into the mix to good effect. Prior to this I read (and really enjoyed) his disaster novel The Rift and his Star Wars: New Jedi Order novel Destiny's Way. I shouldn't be surprised I liked Implied Spaces as much as I did because of my past experience with his writing (as I said limited) and the quality of the stuff NightShade has been publishing. The cover is awesome, too.

It’s been up a while, but Paul S. Kemp has a sample from the last entry of his Twilight War trilogy up for perusal. I’ve got (and had for a while, sorry taking so long to get to it Paul) the first two books in the new series. I reviewed his Erevis Cale Trilogy last year and enjoyed it more than I expected, proving that Shared World fiction can indeed be above the bar, quality reading.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

SFFWorld: Discussions of the Week

Something I may start to feature regularly is a highlight of a couple-few discussions in the SFFWorld forums that are "tearin' up the charts." Maybe it will be a weekly feature. Maybe I'll post the topics more frequently. Who knows. I do know I haven't followed up on any with any Catching up with the Classics* features like I promised all of you, my loyal readers. (all 7 of you).

This may be redundant, since many of you might be members of the forum anyway. Here goes.

In Fantasy forum, one of the hotter, more recent topics is 2008 debuts, wherein our members (including me) talk about books that have or will debut this year. Go figure with that elusive title. The heart of the discussion is that there doesn't seem to be a clear cut OMG THIS IS THE BEST DEBUT NOVEL THIS YEAR, LIKE NO OTHER WRITER, blah blah. What are you waiting for, go tell us what YOU think.

In Science Fiction forum, we have recent original anthologies. This topic has been floating around for a while, but people who like to yell for the death knell of short fiction should check it out just to see all the interesting anthologies publishing nowadays.

In the Writing forum, the Post your Progress Thread is always popular.

In our George R. R. Martin sub-forum the debate/discussion about when the next book is going to publish is always a hot topic: ADWD- October release?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Booky Bloggy Post

Since I’ve been writing reviews, I always try to improve what I do. My aim when writing said review is to convey my thoughts about the book I’m reviewing as lucidly and, perhaps more importantly, as honestly as possible. Providing a balance between addressing what I think important and rambling for too long is a tenuous act. Larry, who often provides good fodder for thought on such things, has an interesting post today about reviewing books that are re-thinkings / re-imaginings / pastiches / homages to earlier works. This is especially timely since I just finished Peter David’s fine Peter Pan pastiche, Tigherheart.

A new Web page is now up for the Neil Gaiman/Dave McKean’s The Graveyard Book. Some of McKean’s illustrations are highlighted and they look awesome. McKean is so versatile and can put together great images in a so many formats. Right, next thing I’ll say is that the sun rises everyday.

Some Bloggy Notes:

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Last Wish: Review at SFFWorld

I posted my review of Andrzej Sapkowski's The Last Wish yesterday. Reviews on this book were floating around last year when Gollancz published it in the UK. Here in the US, Orbit just released their edition of the book. This wasn't a novel, as I thought it would be, but rather a collection of stories chronicling Geralt the Witcher's encounters with various monsters and legends out of fair tales and folklore. I liked the stories quite a bit and look forward to following Geralt's adventures.

As reviews started appearing on the blogosphere, there was some heated discussion about the book with varying opinions by some of my blog-o-pals. Considering I really enjoyed the book, I obviously don't completely agree with some of them.

We also shook up the main page at SFFWorld again, bringing my review of Cory Doctorow's Little Brother up top, and also featuring Mark/Hobbit's review of Stephenie Meyer's The Host as well as his latest review Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan and my aforementioned review.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Books in the Mail (W/E 5/17)

Nothing new for review arrived in the mail this week, which might be a good thing. The backlog is probably taller than I am at this point. The good thing is that many of those books aren't publishing until Fall/Winter so I've got a decent amount of time to keep the pile manageable.

However, I did finally get around to buying Tad Williams's Shadowplay, the second of his Shadowmarch series. I've been a big fan of Tad Williams for a while, but I just never got around to picking up the book.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Digital Plague - Virus Released!

About six months ago, I read and reviewed Jeff Somers's The Electric Church published by Oribit. From my review:
Told from the first person, the reader’s only true window into the world is Avery Cates, but he does seem a rather reliable narrator. Somers affects this very well through Cates’s deprecating internal dialogue as well as his interaction with the team he pulls together for the big kill. Even in the scenes where little action is taking place, Somers maintains a very effective narrative allowing for the pages to turn quite quickly.
The sequel (The Digital Plague) is now out* and as with the previous book, Orbit and Jeff have put together another clever viral marketing campaign. Here's what they tell me (via e-mail):

You might remember last year author Jeff Somers launched an ARG inspired puzzle to support the launch his debut novel The Electric Church (

These puzzles are scripted as narratives – the first one told a short story based in the universe of the book, and allowed players to save (in a manner of speaking) the monk.

The original puzzle was solved first by members at – it's pretty fascinating to watch them work their way through. (

His latest book, The Digital Plague, is now out, and he's scripted another puzzle – this one takes place on a messageboard where citizens of Old NewYork are coming to grips with the plague that's taking over the city.

Even readers who aren't up for solving the puzzles can get a kick out of this extension of the book's universe – with topics like "Augments: A place to discuss legal bodily augmentation" and "Elective Surgeries: A place to discuss the newest surgical techniques to extend lifespans, restore youthfulness, and defeat disease."

* I have the book and will be reading and reviewing in the near future. I liked the The Electric Church too much not to find out what Avery Cates has been up to since the conclusion of the novel.

Lastly, to keep the Star Wars theme running, happy 64th to George Lucas!

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Dragon's Nine Sons by Chris Roberson

I posted my review of Chris Roberson’s The Dragon’s Nine Sons a couple of days ago. This was the second novel I read by Roberson and enjoyed it almost as much. Good pacing, a good reveal of each of the main characters and a nifty alternate future history.

As I was stumbling across Chris's blog, I saw this picture that is a creepy and cool interpretation of an 80s icon.

Last, and most certainly not least the trailer for The Clone Wars is up at I almost forgot about this coming out later in the summer, but this looks cool.

I've been posting quite a bit of Star Wars content lately, haven't I?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Books In the Mail (W/E 5/10)

Here’s the arrivals for last week: Where dates aren’t noted, the book is on shelves now.

Cosmos Incorporated by Maurce G.Dantec
Dantec is a prominent French science fiction writer whose work is now seeing release here in the US. His novel Babylon Babies is the inspiration for the Vin Diesel film Babylon A.D.

Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory
This is Gregory's debut novel publishes in August. This has a 1950s setting and from the back of the book, it sounds a bit like the Bill Paxton film Frailty, except the demons are real. This sound really interesting.

Orphanage and Orphan’s Destiny by Robert Buettner repackaged with a nice uniform treatment by Orbit books. I really enjoyed the first two books (titles link to my reviews) so as I said earlier, I was happy to see Orbit books continue the series when they took over for Warner Aspect.

Orphan’s Journey also arrived, which I’m looking forward to reading.

Queen’s Bastard by C.E. Murphy - In a world where religion has ripped apart the old order, Belinda Primrose is the queen’s secret weapon. The unacknowledged daughter of Lorraine, the first queen to sit on the Aulunian throne, Belinda has been trained as a spy since the age of twelve by her father, Lorraine’s lover and spymaster. Amid court intrigue and magic, loyalty and love can lead to more daring passions, as Belinda discovers that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.
Sample Chapter

The Brass Bed by Jennifer Stevenson – Paranormal demonic romance. There are a lot of these out there.

Kull: Exile of Atlantis by Robert E. Howard illustrated by Justin Sweet (June from Subterranean)
Need I say more? This looks beautiful, and I’ve only got the advance. Everything about this book says own me. Kull is (unfortunately) best know by the movie which starred Kevin Sorbo in the titular role. However, Kull was "born" before Conan, having appeared in published stories before Conan, if I'm not mistaken. I'm really, REALLY looking forward to reading this one.

Summer Morning, Summer Night by Ray Bradbury (Fall from Subterranean)
In the course of this volume, readers will encounter a gallery of characters brought vividly to life by that indefinable Bradbury magic. Included among them are a pair of elderly sisters whose love potion carries an unexpected consequence; a lonely teacher who discovers love on Green Town's nocturnal streets; a ten-year-old girl who literally unearths the intended victim of a vicious crime; and an aging man who recreates his past with the aid of a loaf of pumpernickel bread.

Conversations in Hearts by John Crowley (September from Subterranean)
The award-winning author of Little, Big, Engine Summer, and the Aegypt novels has graced us with a touching novelette, Conversation Hearts.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Demon and the City

I put up my review of The Demon and the City by Liz Williams. This is the second installment of her Detective Inspector Chen series, which I'm enjoying. I liked the first one a little more than this one, but still think the series is strong and has a great deal of potential.
A few years ago, I might have said that Epic Fantasy was my favorite subset of Speculative Fiction, but over the past year or so, I've been really gravitating to the Modern Day Wizard stories like Williams, Pratt and Butcher. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy Epic Fantasy, Near Future SF, Space Opera, etc, but as some of my posts recently may have suggested, the "Modern Day Sorcerer" is really working for me.
Mark/Hobbit posted his review of Stephenie Meyer's first "adult" novel, The Host, a couple of days ago, too.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Books In the Mail (W/E 5/3); Iron Man

Here's the list of books I recieved for review last week:

Invincible by Troy Denning
Star Wars Legacy of the Force Book 9

The series looks pretty good (as I said in my last post), but I've got some catching up to do. I think the writers and behind the scenes folks did an impressive job with the New World Order and I've heard the same type of positivity about these books.

The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy edited by Ellen Datlow
This looks to be a new anthology of short fiction, in an increasingly impressive market of original anthologies. I still have Jonathan Strahan's Eclipse on my TBR pile. There are some impressive writers in this book - Jeffrey Ford, Elizabeth Bear, Paul McCauley and Kim Newman

Kilimanjaro: a Fable of Utopia by Mike Resnick (December Subterranean Press)
This is a follow-up to Resnick's watermark novel, Kirinyaga. I haven't read that particular book by Mike Resnick, but what I have read from him, I've enjoyed.

Those Who Went Remain There Still by Cherie Priest (December Subterranean Press)
This looks to be a southern ghost story involving Daniel Boone. I haven't read anything by Cherie Priest so this looks like a good opportunity to giver her a try.

Stonefather by Orson Scott Card (October Subterranean Press)
A novella set in Card's soon-to-be released Mithermages fantasy saga. I went through a pretty big OSC phase a few years ago and haven't read much by him since (I think) Shadow Puppets. This should be a good chance to get reacquainted with his work.

Mrs. Blog o' Stuff and I caught Iron Man over the weekend. I was never a big fan of Iron Man. If I have 20 Iron Man comics in my collection, then that's a lot. I always considered him a B-list Marvel character despite Marvel putting him at the forefrunt of their major storylines over the past few years.

The movie kicked ass. I loved it and didn't expect to like it nearly as much as I did. Downey may be the most perfectly cast superhero this side of Christian Bale. Jeff Bridges was good as the slime-ball enemy. I've seen a lot of his movies but is really that big a guy? Maybe I will give some old Shellhead comics a try on my next visit to the comics shop.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Up went my latest review, The Ancient by R.A. Salvatore, a book I enjoyed more than I expected. I haven't read any of his other DemonWars novels, so this was an introduction that may lead me to more of the books. It was a bit predictable, but I've seem many comments from fans of Salvatore that the earlier books in the series are much better than this one. Still, I enjoyed it and the pages moved pretty swiftly. I read this not too long after Empress, and although Salvatore's novel is cliched like Miller's book, I thought the cliched aspects of Salvatore's novel weren't as overpowering. Essentially, The Ancient was cliched comfort fantasy done pretty well.

Don't forget to go out and pick up or order Little Brother, the book is in stores now and is the best book I've read this year. It just might the most important book of the year, too. I've praised the book since I finished reading it, but I can't help but really urge people to take a look at it. Robert of the Fantasy Book Critic liked it just about as much as I did. There's a reason cool folks like Neil Gaiman and Brian K. Vaughn (Y: The Last Man, Lost) are singing its praises and have their blurbage on the book.

It's been too long, but I find myself being drawn back into the Star Wars Expanded Universe of novels. I've had the final book, The Unifying Force for almost three or four years now, residing on my version of Aidan's Pile o' Shame.* I really enjoyed most of The New Jedi Order novels and what I've been reading/hearing (specificlly from Jay Tomio, whose reading tastes have similar ranges to mine) about the Legacy of the Force is really good, too. Coincidentally, the final book of the Legacy of the Force, Invicible arrived yesterday from Del Rey the publisher is offering a free dowloadable version of the first book, Betrayal. As much as I want to read that novel, I've got a lot of catching up to do before I get to that book. My brother-in-law has been reading most of the Star Wars Expanded Universe and said The Dark Nest trilogy was pretty good too. Then again, he thought The Rise of Darth Vader by James Luceno was good, whereas I thought it very, very lacking especially since I've enjoyed other SW novels by Luceno.

* what us** about Aidan is his us of o' for of, something we** try do here at the Blog o' Stuff. I should start posting my weekly recievables a la the Hornswaggler.

**...of course by us I mean me.