Thursday, June 28, 2012

Things I've Noticed: The Bookmonkey FAQ part 1

One of the things I really enjoy reading on other peoples blogs are the various “Frequently Asked Questions” sections they have, and have decided to follow suit.
Only one real problem – I’m not frequently asked that many questions.
So.... I guess I’ll just ask myself some questions and then answer them, but I’ll list this as the Bookmonkey FAQ part 1 so that if I get some other questions in the next month or so I can answer them as well.
So here we go; questions 1 – 5
Where did you get the name Bookmonkey?
Totally easy – I’m a huge fan of the Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and my favourite character in the series is the librarian of Unseen University, who happens to be an organutan. The internet being what it is, Librarianmonkey, Oragutan-Librarian, Orangu-tarian, Discworldmonkey and a number of other names already existed, but Bookmonkey was up for grabs!
Why “The Wisdom” of Bookmonkey? 
Someday I hope to be remembered as a pretty wise guy (not a pretty wiseguy) and also I thought the title would be catchy and therefore easy to remember.
Whatever Happened to those “You Owe It To Yourself” posts you used to do?
Well, I got a good ten of them out there and then started worrying that they may be coming across as too lecture-y, so I took my favourite one and changed the topic to Genre Character of the Week.
Speaking of those different posts (You Owe it to yourself, Genre Character, Things I’ve Noticed, etc.) Whatever happened to my favourite Why I Love Horror
Honestly – I kind of lost track of that one, but should really get back into it.  Also I should figure out how the folks at Blogger will let me put links to each of those topics from my main page.
Finally, You spend each October looking at a popular topic in Horror (Re-imaginings, Twilight, and (mild Advertisement) the upcoming look at the Saw Franchise), so why don’t you dedicate a month to Fantasy or Science Fiction each year?
Honestly?  Those month-long sessions take a lot of my time; I need to design artwork and get my BFF Mike to create a new banner, I actually have to watch/read everything I want to talk about, and finally, my wife only has so much patience for me to spend time focusing on a topic of little interest to her (October 2010 – The Twilight Saga, was a long and lonely month for her).
So there you go – if any of you out there have questions you’d like to know the answer to, feel free to send them my way, either by the comments or a simple email to

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Genre Character of the Week: Sackboy

After a long run of mature games (Dead Space, Assassin’s Creed I & II, Infamous) I decided to take a run at a family game again (also I got it for Father’s Day) so for the last two weeks I’ve been playing Little Big Planet 2 for the PS3.  In addition to being incredibly eye-catching and fun, it stars a completely customizable character called Sackboy.

Here’s the thing about Sackboy – he’s adorable!  Seriously, for those of you who haven’t’ gotten the chance to play either Little Big Planet game, he looks like a tiny doll made of a course fabric which the player can change at will, including emotions, hand moves, costuming and more.

The little guy runs through levels made up over various arts and crafts style objects and in the second game joins an alliance to save the tiny world he is from.  There isn’t much more to it actually – he’s (and to be fair you can play Sack as a girl or a gender-neutral character as well) just this adorable little creature who does his best to save the day.

Personally I prefer to use the default setting, as it makes him look most like the characters from the film 9 (no not that Nine).


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book Review: Book of the Dead

One of my favourite things about reading any kind of story is the fact that it came from somewhere, and not just the mind of the author, but often something the author read, saw or experienced led to the creation of the story.

In zombie apocalypse literature, that story is Night of the Living Dead (1968), the George Romero black and white classic that really changed popular cultures perception of zombies from people under a voodoo curse to the reanimated corpses risen from the grave we all know now.

In 1989 Editors John Skipp and Craig Spector put together The Book of the Dead, a collection of zombie apocalypse stories inspired by the classic George Romero film.  Contributors included Stephen King, Robert R. McCammon, Richard Laymon and more.  In terms of zombie apocalypse literature, this short story collection is really where it all started.

It is important to say that these stories are incredibly graphic, stomach-turning and filled with sex and violence.  Honestly a large number of these stories were incredibly hard for me to get through and I'm a big fan of zombie stories - without going into too much detail, lets just say there are more than a few zombies that do stuff you'd rather not think about in these stories.

The stand out for me, and the reason I'm glad my wife got me the book (It had been sitting on my used-bookstore watch-list for five years before I gave up the hope of finding it and asked for her help) is the Robert R. McCammon story Eat Me.  It won the 1989 Bram Stoker award for best short fiction and honestly, after reading a number of nihilistic stories about the undead taking over the earth, it was a surprisingly beautiful tale that really blew me away.

The book (again not for the faint of heart) is really something anyone who likes to claim loves zombie stories should read - I know from personal experience that it's hard to find, but trust me, it is totally worth the effort.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Things I've Noticed: Five Reasons Everyone Should watch The Warriors

Although I’ve long been a fan of this little gem from 1979, It has been a difficult process for me to explain exactly why I think the majority of people out there should see it.
So let me give it a try...
5. You’ll finally be one of the cool people who understand where the phrases “Warriors... Come out to pla-ay!” and “CAN YOU DIG IT?” comes from.
4. For an action film set in a dystopian near-future New York, it sits comfortably in my top three (also see Escape from New York and I Am Legend)
3. For an action film set in a dystopian near-future New York, It has a surprisingly great performance from lead actor Michael Beck

 2. The Tag-line is as follows: These are the Armies of The Night. They are 60,000 strong. They outnumber the cops three to one. They could run New York City. Tonight they're all out to get the Warriors.

 1.  The story is inspired by the Anabasis by the Ancient Greek writer and soldier Xenophon, meaning that while you’re watching the various gangs do their best to bring the Warriors down, you are also watching an adaptation of one of the coolest stories written in the ancient world.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Genre Character of the Week: David 8

Last weekend I went to check out the new film Prometheus with my mother, brother, youngest daughter and BFF.  The movie is a prequel to the 1979 Horror/Science Fiction classic, Alien. In structure it was not unlike last years The Thing, in that it wanted to be a frightening film on its own, as well as a set up for the events of the earlier film (Sorry to get a little film-nerdy here, but there’s an interested connection between the two films – The Thing (1982) director John Carpenter and Alien screenwriter Dan O’Bannon went to film school together and both dreamed of remaking the classic Howard Hawkes 1951 film The Thing from Another Worldand although they went their separate ways before they could do it together, both Alien andThe Thing are very heavily influenced by the earlier film).  Although Prometheus was not a perfect film, it did introduce me to this week’s genre character, David 8.

Played by actor Michael Fassbender, David 8 is an android created by Weyland Industries, which (mild spoiler of AlienAliensAlien3, and Alien Resurrection) means that he should be carefully watched, as androids in these films tend to range from strangely helpful to brutally homicidal.  What I liked best about the character was his very near-human status.  By this I mean that he came across as almost a perfect human being, but sat on just the other side of creepy the whole way through.  Some of this I comes from the script and direction, but honestly it was the acting that blew me away.  For a character that seems very helpful, he’s just got this strange undercurrent of “other” that gave me a serious case of the creeps.

This Is why I’m not a big fan of robots in film– from The Terminator to Data (and no, I haven’t seen every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but I did see the end of one where he KILLS HIS OWN BROTHER!!! – whoops – mild spoiler again - right after the brother says “I love you”), I mean sure, there are some nice robots in film (Terminator 2, WALL-E, That busted up thing from The Black Hole), but generally if you’ve introduced robots into your SF story it’s to have them programmed to kill, or to break their kind programming and kill (I don’t know about you, but for me the military was totally in the right in trying to track down and destroy the laser-armed killbot known as Johnny 5 in Short Circuit).

Wait a second, where was I?  Right – David 8, creepy performance, and also the reason I won’t be buying a Roomba anytime soon.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

You Got Your Star Wars all over my Zombies!

For my long-time readers this isn’t really news, but for the few of you who haven’t been here before, here is some important background info: 1) I (Bookmonkey) love horror, 2) Zombie stories are some of my favourite examples of the sub-genre, 3) I’m not really a fan of mash-ups.

My problem with mash-ups comes down to the cultural juggernaut that is Glee.  Basically, rather than write songs of their own, they spent a lot of the first season wrecking personal favourite songs of mine (I stopped watching about halfway through the season), and in the sixth episode the concept of the Mash-up was introduced to popular culture, (NOTE: Of course I know mash-ups have been in existence for over a decade now) or at least to me, which meant that the show could ruin twice as many of my favourite songs at a time.

Literary mash-ups really got going recently with the introduction of the book Pride & Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Graham-Smith.  Interestingly enough the very same month P&P&Z came out, a little book by Joe Schreiber also came out, called Star Wars: Death Troopers.

In addition to loving zombies (well, loving zombie stories, I wouldn’t want to have any over for dinner), I am a pretty big fan of Star War.  I’m not as good a fan as my BFF Mike (who has written his own review of Death Troopers here), for instance I still prefer to call the Ithorian Momaw Nadon Hammerhead, because that’s what I called him for years.  Anyway, as Mike and I have been reading parallel genre fiction for years (he focuses on Science Fiction while I tend to focus on Horror) it is a pretty rare story that brings us together.  Last time it was the Canadian horror film Splice.

The book is really fast.  Clocking in at 234 pages I read the whole thing in about two days of bus trips, coffee breaks and lunches.  The story follows a traditional biological-based zombie outbreak (think ...28 days later) set on a prison ship about a year before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope.

I actually found the book to be a lot of fun – it was considerably less gruesome than the last zombie book I read (the classic Zombie anthology Book of the Dead – more on that next week), and the Star Wars stuff didn’t overwhelm the delicious taste of zombie (again I mean figuratively, who on earth would eat literal zombie?).  Did the story work?  Absolutely, it was fun, scary and probably a little more visceral than most Star Wars fans are used to.

I guess it could be considered a gateway book for fans of Space Opera who really need to up their zombie quotient (which by the way is all of them!)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Things I've Noticed: Father's Day is coming!

So we've got three days to go until Father's Day, and as my two lovely daughters are beyond the macaroni-pictures-coated-in glitter-phase, I'm kind of interested to see what they've got in mind for me.

As a dad who loves Horror, SF and Fantasy, I m hoping they've got a lot of options of things they can send my way.

I don't want to get into specifics as that may alienate whatever they have already decide, but I will say that no Dad was ever unhappy with higher necklines and longer skirts - you know, when I was a young man the most interesting thing we looked for in ladies was a shapely ankle, so, you know, longer skirts can still be considered a daring choice.

Also turtlenecks are great.

And Parkas.

Have I mentioned how much fun it is to have two teenaged daughters?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Genre Character of the Week: Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer

One of my favourite things about showing my kids classics of Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction is when they see something that is pretty amazing and it blows them away now just like it did me years ago when I first watched/read/played the thing.  Case in point?  Predator.

A year before he would direct my favourite Christmas movie of all time, John McTiernan directed a film that followed one of the simplest premises you can do in horror.  Man vs. Monster.  The monster is some sort of alien, which has come to Earth to hunt us, and the man in question is the leader of a team of army specialists, a man who never loses his cool, Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger).

Dutch leads a team of five men specialized in rescue missions, and it is for this reason that they have been called to Guatemala.  A Cabinet minister has been kidnapped by guerrillas and needs to be quickly and quietly brought home.  The problem is that the mission is a little more complicated than that, and oh yeah, there is a horrible alien running amok hunting humans.

Here’s what I love about Dutch.  The guy is incredibly good at his job – yes he does overlook one obvious plot hole about the creature, but other than that he is a man limited to his own abilities in fighting a clearly superior enemy.  After twenty-five years the film still totally holds up, and yes, I hope when they’re old enough I can show it to my (potential) grand kids.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Book Review: Downward to the Earth

Last week I continued on my way through classic SF into the 1970s with Robert Silverberg's classic, Downward to the Earth.  A story of a man seeking redemption and understanding form the people and places he has wronged, the book focuses on a man named Edmund Gunderson who used to be the colonial advisor to a planet called Belzagor (called Holman's World when Gunderson was in charge) the planet has been relinquished back to its indigenous population, an elephant-like reach called the nildoror, who have requested all Earth-men and Earth-technology be removed from the planet as it fails.

The book is clearly heavily influenced by Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkenss (one of my favourite horror stories, BTW), in themes, names of characters and even descriptions.  The story moves along very well and if I hadn't already had another character in mind for this Wednesday, Edmund would certainly have ended up as a Genre Character of the week.

The novel was intriguing, thought-provoking, and emotionally effective.  At 165 pages I would strongly recommend it for anyone interested in giving SF a try.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Things I've Noticed: I'm a Spectrum Scholar

So taking a quick trip out of my love of Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction; I thought it would be cool to mention that I just got chosen for a Spectrum Scholarship by the American Library Association!  You can read about it here or here.  It’s really cool as it means that the debt I’m going into for Grad school will be significantly reduced and I’m in a pretty small group of people as only 50 of these scholarships go out each year and they can be given to any successful applicant attending any ALA-accredited library school in North America.  I’m one of only three from Canada and am also the first person at my school to get one.
And now for the really interesting part; as part of the scholarship I’m going to get to attend next years American Library Association Conference in Chicago, IL!  I’ve never actually been there before, so if any of my readers are familiar with the area, be sure to let me know what kind of must-see stuff I should be checking out.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Genre Character of the Week: Captain Cirocco Jones

For one of my book clubs last month I checked out the 1979 Science Fiction novel Titan by John Varley.  The story focuses on the crew of the Ringmaster, an exploratory spaceship near Saturn which has discovered a new moon.

(Mild 33-year-old Spoiler) Then the moon eats them.

Some time later our main character (and this week's genre character) Captain Cirocco Jones bursts out from the ground and begins the work of finding her friends and finding her way home.

The novel is one of discovery, as our characters have awakened inside this new moon and have a strange new world to explore filled with giant air-wales, centaurs and blood-thirsty angels.

What I liked about the book was its great sense of adventure and the specifically the character of Captain Jones, who decides that this world must have some sort of overseer and decides to go find them.

The novel is the first in a trilogy, and although I'm not sure if I'd follow up with the next two, it was a lot of fun, and definitely worth a read.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Book Review: Hide and Seek

Jack Ketchum has been a horror writer on my radar for some time now - actually for almost a decade, his novel The Lost went up against Neil Gaiman's American Gods for the Bram Stoker award for Best Novel back in 2001 and from that point on I thought I picked up a couple of his books here and there during used-bookstore runs over the years, waiting until I have a few in publication order to check them out.

A few months ago I read his first novel, Off Season, which was both quite good and really graphically horrific.  Let's just say I wouldn't recommend it to someone new to the genre, it was a modern (well, 1981) retelling of the legend of Sawney Bean (which you can read about here!) The book was both acclaimed by horror writers and censored like crazy.

Unfortunately, that kind of attention for a first novel meant that his second, Hide and Seek, was much harder for me to find during my expeditions to used-bookstores and eventually I simply broke down and ordered myself a copy.

Hide and Seek is a coming of age story that builds a surprising level of character development into 165 pages and ends with a grown up version of the children's game that goes horribly, horribly wrong.

The story follows a young man in a small town who has a summer romance with a girl who is both captivating and clearly emotionally damaged almost from the start.  Throughout the whole book there is a building atmosphere of horror as you know something just terrible is going to happen to this couple, and when it hits, it's really bad.

The thing that really struck me about this book was just how great the character development was, there were all these quiet moments and shocking moments and in a lot of ways it was really easy to fall into this whirlwind romance, increadibly intense and really real feeling.

If you can get your hands on it, this is a really engrossing read, but I will warn you, it gets pretty hard to read towards the end.