Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Genre Character of the Week: Peter Watson

One of my favourite parts of being in two separate book clubs is the great stories I get recommended to me by my friends that I may not have heard of otherwise.

So there we were, sitting at our local Denny’s, enjoying coffee and 2000 calorie lunches (I lie, mine was probably 2500 calories – and I had desert… and a milkshake!) when the topic came up of our earliest memories of horror stories. For me it was Roald Dahl’s The Witches, a story involving a young boy, his grandmother, and some of the most evil characters I’ve ever come across in fiction. For my friend Dr. Teeth, it was another short story of Dahl’s, The Swan, from his fiction collection The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More.

Having never even heard of the title, I requested it from my local library and finished the book yesterday. I am happy to add the hero of The Swan, Peter Watson to my genre characters of the week.

Seen through the eyes of the stories bullies/protagonists, Peter is described as:
“…the enemy. Ernie and Raymond detested him because he was nearly everything that they were not. He had a small, frail body. His face was freckled, and he wore spectacles with thick lenses. He was a brilliant pupil, already in the senior class at school although he was only thirteen. He loved music and played the piano well. He was no good at games. He was quiet and polite. His clothes, although patched and darned, were always clean. And his father did not drive a truck or work in a factory. He worked in the bank.”

The story follows these two sadistic bullies as they torment and nearly kill Peter. Peter himself comes across as both terrified and having one of those strong young minds I love coming across in YA fiction.

The story is great – chilling and terrifying and with well drawn characters – definitely worth checking out.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Movie Review: Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown

For the last few months I've had my eye on a documentary about the life of H.P. Lovecraft called Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown which came out in 2008. While checking out IMDb this morning, I found the film was available online here.

The movie is an overview of the life of the author as well as a look at his influence on modern genre fiction and film. Folks like Neil Gaiman, Ramsay Campbell, John Carptener and Guillermo Del Toro all talk about the author, favourite stories and his influence over all.

Although I don't think the film would be of much interest to people not at least vaguely familiar with the author, for anyone who has read any of his short stories, it was a pretty comprehensive view of the mans life.

Totally worth checking out.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Things I've noticed: I'm not too cool for school

Two weeks ago I got in a pretty nasty bicycle accident on my way home from work, putting me out of commission for a couple weeks and leaving me in a cast until halfway through September.

On the positive side however, I just found out that I got into Grad School, so as of next month I will be working towards getting my Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) degree.

This means (hopefully) that by the end of 2016 (as I'm working part-time) that I will be a librarian working in a future library (like the one based above - although hopefully not that one as it has no comfortable seating, obvious possibilities for suicidal patrons and nowhere for the staff to go).

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Genre Characters of the Week: Ratchet and Clank

Have I ever mentioned how much I love my local library? As I'm working my way through classic PS3 games, usually through purchases at EB Games, there are a number of titles that are still currently too far above my price point to purchase - Red Dead Redemption, L.A.. Noire, etc.) so once I found out that my local library has video games, some of those pricier titles are now available to me. Case in point, the first title featuring this weeks genre characters: Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction.

Ratchet (pictured left) is an alien creature known as a lombax who, along with his servant/backpack/friend/robot Clank save the universe on a pretty regular basis. What I really enjoy about both characters is that they are pretty genuinely funny (humour and SF are always good friends of mine), and that by playing the game I'm seeing lots of neat settings, amazing and varied weapons and I can also play the game whether my kids are watching or not (there are a lot of horror-themed games where I have to play the game early in the morning with the sound off, and hiding under a blanket).

In the end, these guys are funny, effective and have a lot of heart. A solid game.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Movie Review: Fright Night (2011)

Hi everyone, I'm back!

Right now I've got a cast on my right arm but my fingers are free so I can type, slowly and with a lot of breaks, but I can do it!

On Saturday I went out with my youngest daughter and her friend to see the recent remake of the 1985 horror comedy film Fright Night.

Although I didn't see the original in theatres (I was nine-years-old at the time, so I had to wait to rent it), I definitely saw the film before finishing Elementary school and really liked it at the time. I guess the idea of a kid seeing monsters and having no adults believe him so he has to face the creature alone appealed to me.

Anyway, fast forward 27 years and I'm taking my 14-year-old daughter to see the new version. She had already seen the original, so we both knew what to expect overall.

Honestly - I found it to be a pretty entertaining film. Although it wasn't as graphic as the original, I liked the direction they took the film, Colin Farrell was great as the vampire and David Tennant stole the show as Peter Vincent.

I think the movie is a great gateway film to the horror genre, as it was scary, but more roller coaster-scary than get-under-your-skin-scary. It was a lot of fun and I'll definitely be adding it to my DVD collection in a few months.

My only advice? See it in 2D if you can as much of the film is set at night and the 3D glasses make the film difficult to see sometimes.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Two Year Anniversary Guest Post!

Hi, I'm Mike The Bold (File Photo Attached). You may remember me from such blogs as 'Mike's Best Blog Ever' & the forthcoming extended paean to Star Trek- 'Beyond The Farthest Blog'. Although, if you remember something from the future, that's precognition, Kyle!

Recently incapacitated while bravely battling the forces of the occult, Bookmonkey asked me to say a few words about his two years on the job.

So, here goes:


Aaaaand now a few more. What a magnificent blog it's been so far! I'm well aware of the demands on his time as father, provider, and ghostbuster (I assume) and yet Bookmonkey puts these out like clockwork, only more reliably and consistently. And I'm not just saying that because the man has excellent taste in BFFs.

Check out topics as diverse as diversity allows, with particular attention to the spooky and the infinite realms of the fantastic. Shove over, Roger Ebert, Bookmonkey knows how to provide truly USEFUL reviews for the geek on the go.

Delve into Genre Characters of the Week every Wednesday! Chilling creatures, mighty heroes, mice and much more. I liked the idea so much, I STOLE it and I only paid him chump change!

Finish out your workweek with Things He's Noticed. Not for nothing is this called 'Wisdom of Bookmonkey'. He's no slouch in the smarts department.

Thank you, blogspot, for hosting this guy. Thank you, dear followers, readers, and lurkers, for doing what you do. And thank you, Bookmonkey, for clever, insightful, and entertaining posts.

Bookmonkey may not spend as much time on TV cartoon fare for the under seven set (my mental peeps!) but you'll be amazed what you can get out of his Paper DVDs once in a while. Here's to the next two years!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bookmonkey Update: OUCH!

Hello All,

I just thought I'd put a quick note here that I had a bicycle accident last Friday and having possibly fractured a bone in my wrist and definitely covered much of myself with bone bruises and road rash, I'm having a bit of trouble working on creating new posts right now.

Also the Tylenol 3 with codeine I'm taking is slowing me down pretty much completely.

Hopefully I'll be back to regular posting as of Friday.

Until them... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Movie Review: TiMER

I think one of my favourite things about genre fiction is how it can surprise you. How it can exceed your expectations in a way that a lot of other fiction can’t. Basically you sit down to read, play, or watch something involving a robot, a unicorn or a monster and find yourself getting what you wanted and then suddenly realizing that the story gave you a lot more.

Case in point: The 2009 film TiMER.

The premise of this Science Fiction film is pretty simple. What if there were a device you could have attached to your wrist at a mall that told you, with complete assurance exactly when you would meet your soul mate? The machine only works with people who are actively in the program, so it is possible, like the main character, to have a wrist band displaying flashing dashes rather than a specific number of days, hours, and minutes until your soul mate pays the $79.99 fee to receive their own TiMER device.

Here’s what I liked about the movie – first of all, the lead actress Emma Caulfield was really really good – having only seen her in the tooth-fairy themed horror film Darkness Falls before this, I was pleasantly surprised by her comedic acting chops. Secondly, like all of my favourite fiction, the story was very character driven, leading the audience to care about (or at least understand) all of its characters. Finally the score was a lot of fun.

The movie moved deftly between romance and drama, and although it was a quieter film (some will find it slow), I really enjoyed how well the film handled its subject matter.

This movie was one of the nicest surprises I’ve had in Science Fiction films all year.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Things I’ve Noticed: Selecting an October theme is tricky

I know it’s still three months away, but as I’m one of those plan ahead types, I keep looking at my calendar and thinking about how I’m going to break down the premise of “The Re-imagining of Horror” into thirteen posts.

Last year I got a really good response for my October posts “Twilight of Bookmonkey” wherein I focused on all five of the Twilight novels, as well as the first two films and soundtracks. So I definitely wanted to follow it up this year with a great month of horror themed posts.

Before I chose to examine the recent re-imagining craze of the genre, I spent a little time thinking about the other Horror series I’ve never gotten around to viewing: Saw. The problem was, even with all those sequels, video games and comics; I didn’t think I would have enough to say to cover thirteen individual posts.

My next choice, and the one I’m going to be doing this October is an examination of the recent re-imagining craze. My hope is I’ll get to spend some time looking a where the craze came from, some examples of both good and bad re-imaginings and my own thoughts about where the genre may go in the future.

Anyway, what I guess I’m trying to get at today is that I need to start figuring out exactly which re-imaginings I should check out and then I realized – why don’t I ask my readers? I’ll definitely be looking at the big three (Friday the 13th (2009), Halloween (2007), and A Nightmare on Elm Street(2010)), but past that I’m pretty open.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Genre Character of the Week: William Mandella

Here’s the thing I’ve noticed about all fiction involving immortality – although there may be some pretty cool benefits, being an immortal would actually be a pretty terrible thing to live though. As a father myself, I can say that yes, I would like to see my grandkids grow old, but I certainly don’t want to be around to see them die.

In my mind the best vampire fiction definitely focuses on this aspect of immortality – the simple fact that every time you make a connection with anyone, you are bound to end up seeing them grow old, die and leave you behind.

William Mandella, the protagonist of Joe Haldeman’s 1974 novel The Forever War ends up being, for all intents and purposes an immortal man. Born in 1975 and possessing a degree in physics, William is drafted into an experimental force for a war against a recently discovered alien species in 1996. As the war is fought light years away from Earth, every time William jumps from one battle to another he jumps months, years, and eventually centuries into the future.

William is one of those characters I really dig in war fiction, the guy who didn’t sign up to be where he is, but is trying to make the best of an increasingly bad situation. Like my favourite SF war characters; Louis Sacchetti, Ender Wiggins and Miles Vorkosigan, William does a remarkable job of telling his own story and showing the human aspect of war.

The book is actually the first of two sequels, and I am definitely interested in checking them out.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Book Review: Variable Star

When it comes to fiction, one of the stranger events for me is when one author dies and another finishes his or her final book. Sometimes this can work out well, but I'm always hesitant with how the book will turn out in the end. Will it be a fine send off for a favourite author or will it be jarring and leave a bad taste in the mouth of the dedicated fan?

In terms of the book Variable Star, written by Robert A. Heinlein and, after his death, finished by Spider Robinson, I can honestly say this book was pretty great. It reminded me of all my favourite Heinlein novels and gave me a pretty satisfying story to boot.

The premise; Joel Johnston, a budding musician finds out his long-term girlfriend is actually one of the richest people on the planet and would like to be married. The only hiccup? Her father will basically own the young man and will groom him to rule the family business in the future. Joel's solution? Leave the planet on a long-term colonizing spaceship, aimed for a distant planet and due to arrive in about 30 years.

The novel is really good SF, but for the the best part of the story is the coming-of-age aspect for Joel himself. He grows up a lot through the story and I have to say that he comes across as both a nice guy and a really developed character.

The book is definitely worth the read, there are still many plot points I've left out and in the end, the human drama is really what drives the story

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Things I’ve Noticed: Vincent Price is the Man

As a pretty dedicated fan of horror films, I have definitely come across Vincent Price in the past. I grew up watching him on the Hilarious House of Frightenstein, enjoyed him at a young age on late night TV in The Fly and loved his cameo as The Inventor in Edward Scissorhands.

As I’m currently working my way through the classics of horror (I’m spent a large part of the last year watching Hammer Horror films), I’ve started digging in to the Roger Corman Classics of the 1960s. Over the last week I’ve watched Mr. Price in The House of Usher (1960) and The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), and after finishing the latter, I’ve really got to admit I’m really impressed with his acting!

Considering I grew up watching him effectively lampoon his own horror movie persona in Frightenstein (it aired early Saturday mornings, and as an early riser, that meant I watched it every week), it really surprised me to see just how good he was in these films. I have seen him in other works and really enjoyed his work, but honestly, as the grieving widower Nicholas Medina in The Pit and the Pendulum, I really felt his sorrow and deep sadness over the loss of his wife Elizabeth (played by Barbara Steele).

The movie works as a straight out horror film, and considering it’s fifty years old, I’ve got to say it really scared me. If you can lay your hands on a copy it is definitely worth the watch.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Genre Character of the Week: Steve Rogers

On Monday I went with my mother, brother, oldest niece, nephew, and youngest daughter to see Captain America: The First Avenger.

I really liked this movie.

It’s kind of funny, as the Superhero genre has had a pretty big summer this year, that the two films I was least interested in to start, this one and Thor, actually came out well ahead of the others.

The movie is great and honestly this comes down to just a few things:

1) Chris Evans, seriously, he really had me invested in the character quite early, and after finding out that he didn’t use a body double for the “before” part of his character (instead it was some pretty amazing CG), I was even more impressed. As cocky as he was as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four movies, he is earnest, kind, and decent in this role.

2) The story focuses on character development – yes there is a lot of connections to the modern Marvel universe (Thor-related items, Howard Stark, etc.), but the focus in the film is very strongly placed on the characters.

3) I loved the relationships Steve had in the film, from his best friend Bucky, to the love interest and especially to the doctor who decides to take a risk on this kid.
Seriously, the film felt like a wonderful throwback to the great pulp classics, but as it had a nice storyline on its own it didn’t look like a series of set pieces waiting for action sequences (and yes, I’m looking at you Green Lantern).

Honestly, this movie was great, and as I said before, a huge part of that goes to the character of Captain America himself, Steve Rogers.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Book Review: The Queen of Bedlam

Happy Heritage Day everyone! (For those of you who don't live in Alberta, Canada, this is our second long weekend of the year that basically comes down to "we really need a holiday in this month" the other long weekend we get happening in February - called Family Day)

Today I both finished the Robert R McCammon novel The Queen of Bedlam, finished the PS3 game Assassin's Creed and saw the new Captain America movie. For today's post, I'll be focusing on the book.

This is the second of Robert R McCammons, Mathew Corbett series, (which I wrote about here) and like the first novel, Speaks the Nightbird, this is a mystery novel set in the American colonies circa 1700 - although the second book takes place in New York rather than in the Carolinas.

This novel focuses on a mystery surrounding a mysterious killer known as The Masker, a man who has quickly dispatched a doctor in a rather horrible fashion. Our main character, Matthew, having returned from the Carolinas three years ago, is now a legal clerk for a contract lawyer, and through the course of the book becomes involved in the case of The Masker, as well as a case of mistaken identity in a nearby asylum.

Overall the book was a lot of fun for me, although it comes to about 650 pages, it is a quick read and quite enjoyable, having a lot of action and building suspense throughout. There is a bit of a jump in tone when Matthew first meets his love interest, as she is almost slapstick-level clumsy, but I will definitely be adding this to my collection when I find it as a paperback in a used-book store.