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“Pitch Black” F. Lauria

This is a reivew of the novelisation of the movie “Pitch Black“, the novelisation being written by Frank Lauria.

A rogue comet spears a commercial spacecraft, causing it to crash on an unknown planet. Other than three suns and a slight oxygen deficiency, a search party discovers that the planet isn’t much different from Earth… until they stumble across a ghostly settlement littered with the human remains of geologists who mysteriously perished exactly 22 years ago. A solar eclipse darkens the skies and with only hours before total blackout everyone must unite in a race to fix the geologists’ abandoned ship before the blood-thirsty monsters escape their underground toombs.

I am a big fan of the Riddick franchise, so when I found out that there was a novel version I knew that I had to read it at some point. This will also be quite a short review since I am going to focus on the novelisation rather than the movie itself.

So, first things first. This is a direct retelling of the movie, literally going scene by scene. It doesn’t really add anything to the world created in the movie, there is no sudden revealed depth to the story or the characters. In fact, several times the attempt to add depth to the characters feels more than awkward and actually manages to be detrimental to the characters themselves.

There are some odd skips in the writing. It is as if the author was trying to merge two scenes but skipped some of the dialogue, or just did an incredibly bad job segueing from one scene to the next. It was just awkward.

There were several spelling mistakes and even mix-ups about names – especially about the Chrislam pilgrims. Also, the leader of the pilgrims was referred to as Imam as if it was his name rather than actually the title it really is.

The one good thing that came out of the book was a little bit of extra information about Riddick’s past, and also about the bioraptors.

Generaly speaking this is a totally okay novelisation. It’s a quick read, and it doesn’t try to push depth on characters often enough to become annoying. It is an interesting way to relive the movie, and is actually worth the read for a fan. I enjoyed it despite its shortcomings.

I recommend this.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2019 in Action Adventure, Horror, Sci-Fi

 

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“The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn” – T. Whitesides

The Thousands Deaths of Ardor Benn” is the first book in the Kingdom of Grit series by Tyler Whitesides.

Ardor Benn is a ruse artist extraordinaire. Hired by a mysterious priest to attempt his most daring heist yet, Ardor knows he’ll need help. Assembling a team of forgers, schemers and thieves, he sets out to steal from the most powerful king the realm has ever known. But it soon becomes clear there’s more at stake thana fame and glory. Ard and his team might just be the last hope for human civilisation.

This is an excellent world. Clearly a lot of thought went into creating this book, for the world is expansive and well developed. The history is rich and deep, the peoples are varied, and the use of magic is incredibly original. It is impressive, and unlike anything I have ever read before.

Despite its size, the book is an easy read. The language is simple, there are no flowery turns of phrase, and the chapters are short and quick. The story is also further divided into sections and each section into chapters, which also help to make it simpler to get through.

The characters are excellently crafted. Ardor, Raek, Quarrah, the crazies, and Isle Havalend are definitely the best of them. Prime Isle Chauster deserved more screen time, and King Pethredote has potential that unfortunately falls flat in the last bit of the story.

Ardor’s plots and schemes are well thought out, and everyone has their moment to shine. Not to mention that the magic system is one of the most fascinating ones I have ever come across. It alone was beyond incredible and worth the read.

Unfortunately, there is quite a lot of things that detract from the book.

Every situation that is supposed to be a detriment, a hindrance to the heroes, turns into a big success. Someone tries to expose Ardor while undercover? He gains access to the king far quicker than ever expected. Ardor blabs to the king about the evil plot he now knows about? He manages to completely avoid the consequences, and turns the entire situation into becoming the king’s most trusted subject. It goes on and on, major problems turned into trifles or into triumphs by Ard’s silver tongue. It became ridiculous.

Then there is the complete undermphasis of the Moonsickness. There was no reason to care about this strange sickness. A short scene about 25% through the book was not enough to make the reader horrified at the possible fate. And since I didn’t care about the sickness, I found that I really didn’t care much about the plot either, nor the impending doom.

Tanalin Phor deserved more than what she got in the end, serving as a throw-away character even with all the time Ardor had spent putting her on a pedestal. And the romance with Quarrah Khai could have worked if she and Ardor had thought and reacted to it differently. As it was, it was just weirdly forced whenever it came up.

There is also a severe lack of tension in sections of the book, and parts of them drag on. I almost gave up on reading it several times several times over. That the plot picks up int he last 200 pages isn’t enough to save it because by that time I had lost more or less all interest.

In essence this is a good book. It has a solid plot, good characters, and fascinating magic. Also, dragons.

In reality, the lack of tension, the focus on things that drag out needlessly, and lack of focus on the things that needed more focus, killed it stone cold dead.

I will, unfortunately, not be reading the sequels.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2019 in Books, Fantasy

 

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“All Systems Red” – M. Wells

This is a review of “All Systems Red” which is the first book in the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

In a space-faring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by company-supplied security robots, for their own safety. But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern. On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their company-supplied bot – a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself as “Murderbot”. Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to watch daytime dramas. But when a neighbouring team of scientists are killed, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

It is a fast paced book with a rather narrow view of the universe and the planet that the characters find themselves on. The author gives off small hints of the grander scale of things without revealing too much, and that keeps interest high. The shortness of the book actually works with the story and the writing style.

It is hilarious that a murdering robot is hooked on drama series and stands facing a wall when it feels uncomfortable with human attention. The mystery of its hacking its own governor module and its past, is enough to keep one interested and reading future books.

The other characters might seem a bit bland, but the book is short and everything is seen through the eyes of a robot. It might be that to a robot all humans seem bland until one of us does something spectacularly different. Dr. Mensah is the only one to really stick out from the crowd as the leader, and Gurathin the augmented human is reminiscent of the android Ash from the original Alien movie.

There isn’t much bad to say about this book, and it is more nitpicking than anything else.

The Murderbot seems a bit too human. Even with a cheap education module and hacking their own governor module and gaining access to entertainment of all sorts, it feels like it ought to think more like “avian creatures with such and such wings and colouring” rather than “birdlike things”. The same goes for emotions. Exactly how does a made robot understand emotions, or even feel them? As it is, the Murderbot seems more like an augmented human than a bot.

There is a distinct lack of descriptions of the surroundings. We only get the very bare minimum, and sometimes that means that things that the Murderbot apparently noticed earlier seem to spring out of nowhere. Granted, this is all seen through a robot’s eyes, so describing the surroundings in more detail than “thick jungle” or “rocky plain” might not be needed for the robot’s perceptions.

This is definitely a good book and worth the read, and I will continue reading the series.

I recommend this!

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2019 in Sci-Fi

 

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“Vampire Hunter D: Demon Deathchase” – H. Kikuchi

“Demon Deathchase” is a review of the third book of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s series Vampire Hunter D.

The review of the first book can be found here.

The review of the second book can be found here.

When a desperate village elder learns that his daughter has been abducted by a Noble, he turns to D to save her. He also employs the Marcus clan, a dangerous and renegade family of Hunters as infamous for killing their competition as they are for getting their man. D’s task becomes ever-more daunting when the fleeing Noble enlists a horrific cadre of human/monster half-breeds. Can D prevail against the force of sheer numbers of his advesaries – both human and not?

Excellent adventure as usual. It is undeniable, Hideyuki Kikuchi writes very good adventure stories.

Fascinating to learn more of the world it is set in, and just how much of the old folklore about vampires that the author has incorporated. Like being unable to cross running water unless there is a bridge, how earth actually enhances their regenerative abilities giving them an interesting reason to carry earth with them.

Again there are small hints about D’s parentage that are doled out. And though it is quite obvious who his father is, the way the hints are scattered about and never actually come out to say it, still make it more interesting. The sunlight syndrome is a curious but welcome weakness when it comes to D, and even if he does get over it remarkably quickly it will be interesting to see if it does show up again in later books.

Leila Marcus is a strong female character, who fights and isn’t a fraid to come face to face with monsters. Although she does wobble a bit when it comes to D and a female dhampir, she still comes up on top at the very end, which is truly enjoyable. Leila’s waning interest in monster/vampire hunting is also a good – though very subtle – touch to her character. Charlotte, the girl who ran off with a Noble, is strong but in a more quiet way, and her bravery doesn’t show much until the very end.

The writing is a bit annoying with the omniscient author who keeps asking questions as if he were a storyteller with an audience rather than a book. It breaks the flow of the story, stopping it up and throwing the reader out of it. The author seems to be getting into a rut with these questions since there were fewer of them in the first book.

Also, the fact that there have been people who suddenly change into rapists without logic or hints of it earlier in the book, bring the quality of the book down. The Mayor in book two, Kyle in this book (although all of the Marcus brothers are revealed to be rapists in the end). The story would have been a lot better without this, and especially if the insta-love/lust people feel around vampires and D had been just a tiny bit less emphasised.

The movie “Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust” has to be mentioned since it was based on this book. Apart from the general changes in the story to make it simpler and more concise, the movie actually manages to follow the book very closely. The movie does away with the insta-love Leila feels for D and the Marcus-brothers being rapists, which is good. But Mayerling has no trouble going through quite a deep, fast flowing river in order to cross to the other side, and that was an annoyance.

They also use a lot of Christian symbolisms in the movie which never appear in the books – most notably the cross. In the first book it is noted that the Nobility made humanity forget about crosses and how much they affect vampires, and they keep maintaining this ignorance even now – whether by a world-covering spell that is tied to the symbol of the cross, or by enchanting humans who try to use the cross against them whenever they actually come across one such person. D has also used a drawing of a cross to check if someone is a vampire, and no one reacts to it as if they recognise it.

Several things that happened in the book never happened in the movie, and some characters exist only in the movie world – most notably Countess Carmilla Elizabeth Bathory. The ending of the movie differed with the ending of the book, both being perfect in their own way, and the movie presents a good story that is more concise and at times more logical than the book is.

All in all, this third book was definitely not my favourite of the stories so far, but I will continue reading a few books more if nothing else.

I still recommend this series!

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2019 in Action Adventure, Books, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

 

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“Jim Henson’s Labyrinth” – A. C. H. Smith

This is a review of the novelisation of the Jim Henson movie “The Labyrinth“.

Sarah has thirteen hours to save her brother from a land where everything seems possible, and nothing is what it seems.

That is the blurb on the back. And if you have seen the movie, then you know what happens. This is a retelling of the movie in book form. Every scene, every line, everything is the same. The author sat there and literally wrote down what they saw on the screen.

So how the hell could they manage to fuck that up?

Yes, you read that right.

The author (needlessly) tried to add depth to the characters, and they fucked it up.

Sarah was turned from an understandably frustrated teenager, into a selfish, bullying bitch who admits to wanting to hurt her little brother. The more I read about her, the more I wonder why in heaven’s name she would ever go after Toby considering her attitude towards him, and also exactly why in the name of all that is holy should I care about her as the main character?

Jareth is no longer the suave, charmingly dangerous Goblin King. Gone is the bad guy we all loved, with his songs and mysteries. Instead he seems more like a paedophile who is terrified of growing older. Like a bad knock-off version of a drag queen Voldemort.

And that isn’t even mentioning the weird wording that sometimes crops up. Like Jareth’s boots being “shod on”, or Hoggle having a “twinkling scowl” or a “smirking little blush” or his “eyebrows beetled” or he is “hoggling around”. I can understand what the author wanted to say, but I doubt that they truly understood the meaning of even half of the words they tried to use.

Perhaps the worst thing that was done to the story, was to turn it from a coming-of-age story into a sexualised mess full of victim blaming.

I do my best to find something positive about each book I read, even the ones that I don’t like, but there is really nothing good here. I am amazed that Jim Henson let this drivel be published, or that a single editor gave this the go-ahead.

Don’t touch this book unless you want a good movie to be ruined by horrible writing.

I really don’t recommend this book at all. Stay far away!

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2019 in Books, Fantasy

 

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“Retribution Falls” – C. Wooding

This is a review of “Retribution Falls“, the first book in Chris Wooding’s series about the Tales of the Ketty Jay.

Darian Frey is the roguish captain of the Ketty Jay, and leader of a small and highly dysfunctional group of layabouts. They are small-time smugglers and pirates, making a nuisance of themselves while avoiding the Coalition Navy frigates. When a hot tip on a cargo freighter seems too good to be true, Frey should have known something was dreadfully wrong. The freighter explodes, Frey is suddenly public enemy number one with both the navy and bounty hunters after his head. But Frey knows something they don’t: the freighter was rigged to explode, and Frey isn’t about to take this lying down.

The world is excellently built. It is interesting and fascinating to read about, and the technology is grounded and explained enough to make sense to the reader. It is nice to know how things work, and it is realistic how the desire for aerium would have started more than one war. Although it is clear that airships are quicker, it is still unclear to me why no other mode of transport was really mentioned – nor was it explained why these potential modes of transport would or wouldn’t work.

The action is rapid and imaginative, and the book itself is a quick read. The chapters pass by quickly as the ships fly through the skies in dogfights, or enchanted swords help their owners in swordfights.

As a character, Frey was easy to both like and dislike. It was refreshing to meet a character who doubts themselves, doubts their plans working, and then being quite surprised when they do end up working. Or when they end up actually shooting someone, the confusion as to why that person didn’t simply pull back from the gun like they were supposed to. But he is also a coward and a shameless womaniser, and he is terrified of being tied down. All of it makes him human.

Trinica Dracken was a truly fascinating female character. She is smart, strong, vicious, powerful, and incredibly dangerous – and not only because of the large amount of men loyal to her. The relationship between Trinica and Frey that was revealed almost at the end of the book, was excellent. It was good to read a romance story that went wrong and where both parties agree that they are both at fault. It is far more realistic than most romance that shows up in fiction, and though it was the main reason for the antagonism between Trinica and Frey, it wasn’t allowed to overwhelm the plot.

I do have some complaints about this book.

The story was very formulaic. There were little to no surprises along the way. A happens and then B and then C. Not once did Frey and his crew actually have real trouble with what they were trying to do. There were no real setbacks. Everything goes smoothly for them even when they are afraid that it won’t. There is action and danger, but the characters never feel like they are, in fact, in danger. Or running around trying to avoid the enemy.

Pinn, Malvery, Silo and Harkins were quite flat. An omniscient author explained more or less everything about Pinn and Harkins whenever they had screen time, and Malvery wasn’t that interesting to begin with. And though Silo’s story was good, it was barely a footnote and he barely showed up as a footnote in some scenes. Crake’s story, though tragic, came far too late – and the same with Jez. All in all it was quite difficult to actually care about the crew, even Frey despite him being one of the more developed ones.

With the way the story was written and the characters, it was difficult to force myself to finish reading, and I ended up skimming for the past 130 pages. I just didn’t care about the crew or the plot. Either one got far too much information about someone which made one wonder why one should care for him or her, or one got far too little information far too late and one had simply stopped caring.

Considering all the action and the world it was set in, this would have made a good movie with a delightful Pirates of the Caribbean feel to it. As a book it simply falls short.

I will not be continuing with the series.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2019 in Books, Fantasy

 

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“Vampire Hunter D: Raiser of Gales” – H. Kikuchi

This is a review of “Raiser of Gales” the second book in the Vampire Hunter D series by Hideyuki Kikuchi.

The review of the first book can be found here.

The village of Tepes lies in the shadow of a Nobility castle, but the Nobility is long gone. Or so it appears until four children disappear, only for three to return with no memory of what happened. Ten years later vampires who can walk in daylight have appeared, and are terrorising the villagers. Only the vampire hunter known as D can solve the mystery… but the answer may be more horrible than anyone can imagine.

Learning more about this weird wild west sci-fi world was fascinating. The plot was good, and though it was a bit obvious what had to have happened to the one child that never returned, it was less clear what had happened to the three that did. Not to mention that their final fate – though a bit disappointing after the build-up – was a complete surprise. There was also a tiny epilogue with a very nice touch about one of the minor characters, Marco.

It was excellent to find it out more about D and his ancestry, and also for hints as to why he does what he does. Only hints were revealed in the story, leaving a lot of mystery surrounding D, and that is an excellent reason to continue reading the other books. The author is very good at scattering hints and information about his main character.

The cruelty of the Nobility gains a deeper level other than just keeping humans as food or slaves. The sheer callousness of the experiments performed on countless children and grown humans, and then the failsafe that activated ten years after the experiment was over and it was obvious that it had failed, was chilling. It makes the Nobility more horrifying, and it’s more understandable why humans are so terrified of them beyond even the possibility of being turned into a vampire.

The writing is better all over, and there are far fewer mistakes in this story. It could be because the author has learned in the two years between the first (1983) and second book (1985). Or it could be because the translator is getting better – or it could be (and most likely is) both of those at the same time.

There are no more info-dump paragraphs of world history like in the first book. Now everything is vital to the story, and the paragraphs of information are shorter and more concise. However, Kikuchi hasn’t suddenly become perfect at his craft, and there are still some bad things about this book.

It was not fun to learn that Lina wasn’t being smart on her own merits, but made smart by whatever it was that the Nobility did to her years before. She was a strong female character, but this revelation kind of ruined her entire character. The same with her sudden change into someone willing too have sex with the other three people who had been kidnapped – although that could have been due to the Nobility’s tampering.

There is a sudden change in the personality of one of the characters. The Mayor suddenly being all obsessive about Lina, and forcing himself on her. When did that start? There were no hints of it up until it happened, and that was a bit too much. The author also has a tendency to make most of his male characters rough and very eager for sex. Yes, they live in a difficult world and the Nobility has managed to eradicate all possible disease brought on by inbreeding or STDs, but not everyone who is shown needs to be a sex obsessed and disgusting bad guy.

In general the fact that most characters who are turned into vampires suddenly become very promiscuous is a bit weird. The change is very abrupt and it happens right after the bite/the character being turned into a vampire. No grace period whatsoever. Very few humans who get changed aren’t suddenly focused on sex, and neither are (most) born Nobility and D himself. At least both men and women go a bit crazy when they get turned, so it’s an equal opportunity thing.

Despite this, the story was very good and fascinating, and I am eager to begin the next book in the series.

I recommend this book!

 
 

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