Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Night Seventeen

So here we are at Five Nights at Freddy's 3, set thirty years after the first game and taking place at an amusement park called Fazbear's Fright.

As with the previous two games the main points are the same; you have to survive from midnight to six in the morning over the course of five nights to completed the game.  Much of the gameplay comes down to timing out when to check various cameras or take other actions to slow down the creatures (or creature in the third game) and the game is filled with eerie imagery ending with some pretty freaky jump scares if you fail on any given night.

The main villain of this game is Springtrap - a sort of rotted version of Bonnie from the first two games and although you hallucinate many other Freddy characters throughout the game, Springtrap is the only actual animatronic that can attack you.

Of the three games, this one took me by far the longest, taking me almost two weeks to complete, and although the villain was pretty terrifying and I enjoyed using one of the creepiest parts of the previous game as a weapon in this game, I did miss the valuable use of sound the previous games had to complete levels.  I was actually able to complete two nights in this game with the sound off, which would have been impossible in either of the original games.

A challenging game, but as it was so far removed from in time from the previous games, it sort of felt disconnected for me.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Night Fifteen

While I continue to work my way through Five Night's at Freddy's 3 (I just finished night 4 y'all!), I decided to read the first novel from the franchise, Five Nights at Freddy's: The Silver Eyes by series creator Scott Cawthon and novelist Kira Breed-Wrisley.

The novel follows a seventeen-year-old girl named Charlie, who returns to her hometown of Hurricane, UT, to attend a memorial for a friend who passed away during a horrific event as a child.

The novel follows Charlie and a number of her friends as they begin to deal with what occurred and find themselves revisiting the old Freddy Fazbear's pizza, which has been closed down for years since the event that cost their friend his life.

As a YA novel, the story moves along nicely, although it left me with more questions than answers - first of all, how this ties into the series, secondly, if reading the novel helps with the games or vice versa; I mean, both stories include the crazed animatronics, and there are elements from games 1 and 2 that appear in the novel, but the setting is different and although I really enjoyed the restaurant as described in the book (an abandoned, walled up establishment, waiting in the centre of a closed outlet mall), none of the games I've played to date have that as their setting, and I'm not sure any future ones will.

An interesting story, and yes, I'll be reading the sequel next week, but tangentially tied to the game series at best.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Night Fourteen

The Animatronics

Over the course of the first three games there are a number of animatronics to deal with.

First off is Freddy himself, a friendly-looking brown bear in a top hat and bowtie, who plays the toreador waltz while he approaches you for the final kill.

Next are Chica and Bonnie, a Chicken and a Bunny who are the most active in the first game and are equally upsetting in how the attack.

Finally, in both the first two games Foxy the Pirate is the most dynamic of the villains, requiring much more attention as well as being the fastest moving of the animatronics you'll have to deal with.

The second game involves puppet, mangle, and balloon boy, and currently I'm working my way through the third game which involves a pretty terrifying rabbit balled Springtrap, who you spend the majority of the game attempting to defeat.

Even though there is virtually no onscreen violence, these creatures do begin as ominous and become threatening pretty quickly.  

Okay, back to my game...

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Night Ten

After successfully spending Five Nights at Freddy's, my reward was to immediately download the second game and begin.

On the surface, Five Nights at Freddy's 2 works very similar to the first game - you play a night security guard, watching cameras and switching on lights to ensure animatronic monsters don't make their way to you and kill you.

A couple key differences with the second game.

1) You have a flashlight, as well as the ability to shine a light while looking at security cameras
2) You have a Freddy Fazbear suit that you can put on quickly, often fooling the animatronics that get too close, and
3) There are now mini-games, which to be fair took a little work (and wikipedia help) to both figure out and understand how they connect to the backstory of the game.

The game also includes a music box which requires constant winding or a terrifying puppet creature comes after you with little chance to stop it.

At this point I realize that there are enough creatures in the game I should dedicate a post to them all...

Friday, October 6, 2017

Night Six

Okay, so here's how the basic gameplay of Five Nights at Freddy's works.

You check the hallways to either side of the security office, then you scan through the security cameras.  

The problem is the animatronics move when you're not looking.  Also, you can hear footsteps, rustling, and banging going on out in the restaurant proper.

So the gameplay (which lasts about eight minutes in the PC version and four minutes in the mobile versions), has you sitting and waiting in a room you can't leave, while giant animatronic creatures move slowly (and in one case very quickly) towards you.

Even though there is no overt violence in the game; as the monsters move to bite you and then the image immediately gets cut off to static, the jump scares are quite effective, and you're really playing against your own rising tension as the clock slowly moves from midnight to 6am.

As a guy who has played through horror video games ranging from the old Nintendo Friday the 13th and the Playstation Saw videogame, I have to say it took me a pretty long time to make my way through each of the nights - you need the sound to effectively play, but it does dramatically raise the tension levels.

After about a week and a half I completed the first game, survived the week, collected my paycheck and immediately downloaded the sequel, Five Nights at Freddy's 2.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Night Three

In Scott Cawthon's Five Nights at Freddy's you play an unnamed night security guard at Freddy Fazzbear's Pizza, a theme restaurant that includes a number of animatronic creatures which seem to get up to no good between the hours of midnight and six am.  Your goal is simple - survive five nights.

The game begins inside an office, with little light, a running fan, and a door on either side of you.  You can scan left and right, and before you begin clicking randomly on buttons a phone rings and the following message plays:

Hello, hello? Uh, I wanted to record a message for you to help you get settled in on your first night. Um, I actually worked in that office before you. I'm finishing up my last week now, as a matter of fact. So, I know it can be a bit overwhelming, but I'm here to tell you there's nothing to worry about. Uh, you'll do fine. So, let's just focus on getting you through your first week. Okay?

And so begins the first of your five nights.  Unlike the majority of horror-themed games out there, you are incredibly limited in what you can do - basically your options are

1) Turn on the light to your left
2) Turn on the light to your right
3) Lock the door to your left
4) Lock the door to your right
3) Look through the security cameras

There are only two problems - first, every time you operate the lights or lock a door, your power goes down and eventually you run out, and second, the animatronics appear to be slowly but surly moving towards you...

Monday, October 2, 2017

Night One

When I was a kid there were a number of places that topped my list of perfect birthday party venue.

3) My backyard - nearby, lots of food, no chance of getting lost.

2) The Movie Theatre - going down with a few friends to see whatever the latest action/horror/comedy popular culture had to offer. A little pricier than home, but tasty snacks and a shared experience nonetheless.

1) Bullwinkles. For those not familiar with the chain, it was pretty similar to Chuck E. Cheese, wherein there was pizza, ball pits, birthday rooms and lots and lots of games. Also giant animatronic animals that would sing songs and perform.

So every summer as I start to gear up for my October Theme-month, I begin looking around the horror genre for either an old favourite to revisit or a new topic to take a deep dive into. This summer, while spending a day hanging out with my youngest daughter at West Edmonton Mall, she suggested I look into doing Five Nights At Freddy's, a horror video game series.

Having never heard of it, I asked her what it was about and she immediately took me into the nearest Hot Topic to show me the section devoted to the game.

Doing a little research on my own, I found the game, which takes place at a Bullwinkles-styled establishment, actually has four sequels, two novels and a potential upcoming movie.

So yeah - let's do it! This year I'll be spend October with Five Night's At Freddy's.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Muse and Reverie

Charles de Lint's 2009 short story collection Muse and Reverie appears to be the last visit he planned to his fictional setting of Newford for some time. The stories, originally published in a number of fantasy fiction collections (including one featuring Hellboy!), are a nice mix of stories, shifting back and forth between urban fantasy and dark fantasy, as well as one adorable Christmas story featuring the crow girls.

The first story in the collection was previous included in his Waifs & Strays collection, but otherwise these were all new to me and were a great delight to read. As I've only got six more stories after this until I'm caught up, and it looks like this is the latest short story collection, I have to admit my enjoyment was a little bitter sweet - soon I'll be joining de Lint's other fans, but like them, I'll have to wait to get more stories until he publishes them.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Book Review: Tales from the Darkside

One of the fun things about growing up in the 80s was the mass popularity of horror films; Freddy, Jason, and Michael Meyers had all become household names and yes, I had a Freddy Krueger poster in my childhood bedroom (Junior High years to be exact). In terms of television however, rather than horror series that followed one simple story, anthology series were king - Tales from the Crypt and Darkside, Friday the 13th, and Freddy's Nightmares all brought horror to our TV screens regularly (with varied levels of success).

For me, Tales form the Crypt and Tales from the Darkside, were both series to have heard about, but never actually seen (I didn't have HBO, and Tales from the Darkside started airing when I was eight). So a few months ago when I noticed a copy of Joe Hill's Tales from the Darkside I was definitely intrigued.

The book contains three scripts for a proposed reboot of the series, and each story is interconnected. They range from Twilight Zone plot twists to some really interesting Frankenstein-themed stories and were well worth the read. If you've never tried Joe Hill before, these stories are short, interesting, and a good gateway into what you can expect from some of his larger works.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Book Review: Railsea

China Mieville's 2012 YA novel Railsea is a bizarre mishmash of any number of things ranging from Giant Monster Movies to Moby Dick and the works of Robert Louis Stevenson. It follows a young doctor's assistant on a train named Sham, who begins the book covered in blood and, no...

Okay, so the book takes place in a world covered in train tracks and populated in those who live in hard rock areas where the giant Moles and other monsters can't...

So there are trains that travel out searching for moles to butcher - sort of like whaling ships...

OK - simply put, this novel is really an immersive experience. Going into it with little expectation (except that I'm a fan of the author), I found myself quickly drawn into Sham's world and into the mystery that he spends most of the novel attempting to solve.

In some ways, the less you know going in the better, but believe me, it's well worth the journey.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The 2016 Bram Stoker Award winner for best novel was John Langan's The Fisherman; a really neat take on traditional cosmic horror.

The novel focuses on two widowers, Dan and Abe, and their shared hobby of fishing, but then quickly moves into their back stories, and the story of a fateful fishing trip. On the way to a spot called Dutchman's Creek, they stop for breakfast and briefly chat with the cook about their plans. When he hears where they plan to go he tells them his own story about the creek, which, like many of the best stories travels backwards and deeper into stories involving some truly dark and horrific goings on at the creek.

I've never read Langan before, but found the book to be a compelling read, initially harmless looking and then moving into something much scarier than I expected, and something that has me feeling a little nervous about those out of the way places I liked to explore as a kid.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Movie Review: IT

So anytime I decide to see the film adaptation of a book I particularly like, here are my fears:

1) The movie will be so faithful to the book that there was no point in seeing it
2) The movie is so different from the book that there was no point in calling it the same title
3) They won't have my favourite parts
4) The won't have cast whoever I think should have got the role
5) The producer/writer/director will have simply missed the point

Having just seen the previous Stephen King adaption - The Dark Tower (and it fulfilled worries 2, 3, and 5) I was really nervous going into IT, a long-time favourite of mine, and one that has already been adapted (and that I saw as a kid when it originally aired), luckily, I didn't need to be worried.

IT was pretty darn great, the story was well-told, the scares were incredible, and I was really impressed by all of the performances. A Horror film focusing on the value of friendship has a difficult road to walk, but this one did it incredibly well.

I could get into spoilers, but instead I'll simply state that I was simply shocked the whole way through with how much I liked the film as a movie, not just a horror movie, but a movie overall. This may end up being the first Horror movie I'll decide to own since It Follows back in 2014.

Well worth the watch!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Book Review: Eyes Like Leaves

Charles de Lint's Eyes Like Leaves was a pretty fascinating read for me, sort of a "what could have been novel". Originally written as his fourth novel, the story falls nicely into the High Fantasy sub-genre (think Lord of the Rings), rather than the Urban Fantasy he's much more connected to these days. The author actually notes in the introduction that the advice he was given by an editor at the time was only to publish if he wanted to focus future works on High, rather than Urban, Fantasy.

The story works quite nicely as a traditional quest-style novel, following a bard, a wizard in training, and a young woman who all seem to be tied together through destiny to the strange creatures who have suddenly begun attacking people throughout the land.

De Lint shines best with characters and setting, and although he does a great job with this novel, I'm a much bigger fan of his urban fantasy stories. A fun read, but really for dedicated fans rather than new readers of the author.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Book Review: Rage of Ares

The act of reading the final volume in any series is always a little bittersweet for me; I know I can go back and reread any of the books at my own pace, but this will be the last time I get to visit with these characters for the first time. As I've been working my way through a list of historic fiction set in Ancient Greece, I've since passed the Persian and the Peloponnesian Wars and am nearly onto books focusing on Alexander the Great. While working my way through the main list however, I've been able to return again and again to the life of Arimnestos in Christian Cameron's Long War series, returning to the Persian War for another look at just how a war lasting so long affects any group of people.

Rage of Ares takes the battlefield right back to Arimnestos' homeland Plataea, for the final battles of the war and does a really great job wrapping everything up. I'm still not a fan of the Glossary appearing at the front of the book, but the author's notes, and in this specific case, a technical look at the battle by a historian, added a number of really interesting details to the series which began back in Killer of Men.

Well worth the read and yes, I'll probably revisit the series again, but next up for me will be Cameron's books focusing on Alexander the Great.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Book Review: If I Understood You Would I Have This Look on My Face?

Between September of 2004 and March of 2011 I worked my way slowly, one class at a time, through an online Bachelor's degree majoring in Communication Studies. The courses I took ranged from courses on Communication Theory and Analysis through the history of Mass Media and even included a couple courses on the Ancient World (which ended up being incredibly useful!).

In the end, a Communication Studies degree showed me over and over again the importance of ensuring that both sides of any message confirm what they have said/heard.  This knowledge has led me to be a better husband/father/friend/librarian (and hopefully blogger), and I think spending any time on understanding how people communicate and relate to each other is time worth spending.

So as you can imagine, when I saw Alan Alda's latest book, If I Understood You Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating, I immediately added it to my hold queue at my local library and looked forward to checking it out.

First off, the book is really readable, Alda does an amazing job of pulling the reader in and keeping them interested throughout, both with personal stories and

Secondly, much of the focus on the book looks at the benefits of better communication in fields such as the sciences, wherein a large number of incredibly smart people doing smart things sometimes have trouble communicating the most important aspects of their work to us regular folk.  The benefits of having at least one communications course in virtually any field of study should not be overlooked.

Finally, Alda makes a really intriguing connection between communication and Improv; showing how skills learned in the practice of improv can help empathize and relate with others and significantly improve your ability at communicating more efficiently and effectively.

A fascinating read and well worth the look.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Book Review: Tyrant

Valerio Massimo Manfredi's Tyrant (2005) moves away from mainland Greece and into the Greek colonies in Sicily.  Following the life of Dionysius I of Syracuse the novel follows both the rise and fall of the character, as told from the point of view of journals and private papers he left for his son.

The novel follows Dionysis through his early frustrations as poor leadership causes a number of Sicilian cities to be destroyed by Carthage, and then follows his own rise to power, which starts, as is all too often the case, with the best of intentions, but ends in pure corruption.

A really interesting, readable novel, that showcases a part of the ancient world I was less familiar with.

Well worth a look!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Movie Review: Annabelle Creation

Last night my friend Mike and I were able to catch an advanced screening of the horror Prequel prequel Annabelle Creation, and it was pretty great!

So a few years back I saw, and really enjoyed, James Wan's The Conjuring, a neat little ghost story set in the seventies and featuring Ed and Lorraine Warren, a couple who made hunting these things down their business for years (including the Amnityville Horror and the Enfeld Poltergeist).  The movie had some pretty great scares, and I was quick to talk my friend Mike into checking out the sequel with me a few years later.

The Conjuring begins with a story about a demonic doll called Annabelle, as a way to quickly show the audience the types of things the Warren's would deal with, and as the doll had a distinct look and the story was creepy, a spin off was soon to follow.  I never saw Annabelle (2014) as the reviews were terrible and I wasn't sure if the character had enough interesting things to sustain a movie (it didn't).

But, when Annabelle Creation was announced I got pretty excited.  Not so much for the doll, but for the director.  David F. Sandberg has been putting horror shorts on YouTube for a few years now, and one of his first was even adapted into a feature (check out the short here), so when I heard this was the fellow who would be directing the film, my interest was definitely peaked.

In the end the movie is pretty fun, the scares set up nicely and although it has to connect to the first prequel, it has enough other interesting things going on I found it was well worth my time.  Interesting note about The Conjuring and it's spin-offs, this horror series is the most successful franchise since the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with six films done, one more coming next year and a further two in development, and all of them have been profitable.

Well worth the look!


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Movie Review: The Dark Tower

So let's begin with the fact that I'm a pretty big fan of The Dark Tower series.

1) I referred to the series in one of my very first posts on this blog
2) I've read my way through the series and its connected books twice
3) I've led my wife, my kids, and my sci-fi loving best friend to read their own ways through the series
4) I read my way through Peter David's excellent adaptation for Marvel Comics and get overly excited every time the Dark Tower is referred to in any of Stephen King's other books.
5) Even though the first book was basically a modified Western and I hated westerns as a kid (because my Mom liked them - read more here) I could not stop reading it and HAD to see what happened in the sequel.

So yeah, I think it's fair to say I was looking forward to the movie every time I head it was going to be made and especially this year when it finally got a release date.

I saw the film yesterday with my wife and kids and here are my first impressions:

1) Why did they make this film version a YA adaptation of the source material?
2) Why is one of the secondary characters now the main character?
3) Why did they have to front load a ton of exposition for a story that really needs to build slowly?
4) Why have you taken two talented actors and given them such a muddled script to work with?
5) Why, having given up on the idea of a faithful adaptation, did you have to slip in the first line of the first book both in the middle of the film and with no connection in any way to the narrative?
6) a;ds lkfj;aldf (sorry, I just face-planted into my keyboard)...

Okay - I liked the performances by both leads, the production values was pretty great and the Easter Eggs were a fun diversion, but in the end - why? Why did they take such an interesting story and turn it into a 95 minute shoot-em-up which ignored almost every aspect of the first three books in the series?

In conclusion the film doesn't make me less of a fan of The Dark Tower series, but will likely make it much harder for me to sell others on this great book series in future.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Book Review: The Ten Thousand

So here's an interesting treat; Michael Curtis Ford's The Ten Thousand takes a look at one of my favourite films of the '70s, (Walter Hill's The Warriors (1979)) and tells the story that inspired the novel that the film was adapted from. This is the story of Xenophon's The Ten Thousand.

Taking place in the chaos following the Peloponnesian War and beginning in 401 BC, the novel follows Xenophon and is narrated by his servant and companion Themostigenes (nicknamed Theo), as they join an army of Greek soldiers who decide to fight as mercenaries under Cyrus the Younger in Persia, only to discover the point of their work was a lie and that they have been hired to help Cyrus kill his older brother. Things do not work out well and ten thousand Greek mercenaries quickly find themselves deep behind enemy lines with no support, little food, and most of their leaders betrayed and killed.

The novel follows the story of how (sorry for the 2500+-year-spoiler) this group made their way home. The novel begins as a war story and quickly turns into a story of survival over overwhelming obstacles. The action was fast, the story epic and I was quite happy to have purchased, rather than borrowed my own copy.

In the end, an excellent read, and an even more excellent reason to check out The Warriors again soon.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Book Review: 2001 A Space Odyssey

So here's the thing about perspective. For so many people Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey is pretty much the paragon of what a Science Fiction film should be, for me however, first watching it at about the age of twelve when Science Fiction meant Star Trek, Star Wars and Aliens, 2001 was a really hard film to get through. The story moved incredibly slowly, the character with the most intrigue wasn't even human and the humans are largely forgettable.

At the time, I just didn't see what the big deal was, but as a completionist, I decided to give the companion novel by Arthur C. Clarke a try.

Reading it at the age of twelve, the novel moved along quickly enough, and suddenly a number of the images from the film started to make sense to me. It still wasn't my favourite science fiction novel (at the age of twelve that probably would have been Vonda N. McIntyre's novelization of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, but I was able to acknowledge it as a big part of the genre.

As part of my recent read through of the various Penguin Galaxy imprint, I reread 2001 last month, and I've got to say from the point of a forty-year-old father and avid genre reader, the story was much more compelling. The narrative moves along through three separate sections (the monkeys, the scientist, and the astronauts), and I thought it all held together rather well.

I guess it's time I take another look at the film, because, with a little perspective, this story got a heck of a lot more interesting.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Book Review: The Mystery of Grace

Charles de Lint's 2009 novel The Mystery of Grace starts with what appears to be a short story; a young man goes to a party, finds an amazing woman, they immediately connect, and then after one night together she simply disappears; not just out of his life, but out of his apartment's washroom, which has no windows and only one door.   Soon after he finds a story of the girl's untimely death, two weeks before the party even happened.

One of the things I like best about de Lint's writing however, is how instead of simply concluding this as a somewhat creepy short story, he works to figure out what might happen next.

One of the things I love about de Lint's writing is that he does it in a way I wasn't expecting, as instead of finding out what happens next to the young man, we follow the recently deceased woman, Altagracia "Grace" Quintero.  

Grace awakens after her death to find herself in a small neighborhood, one with even greater secrets than she imagined, and that is as far as I'll go with a plot summary.

The novel is a lot of fun, self contained (sorry Newford fans), and takes a pretty interesting look at the hereafter.

Well worth the read.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Revisiting Dune

One of the first posts I ever made for this blog focused on Frank Herbert's 1965 science fiction epic Dune, which in many ways is the Science Fiction equivalent to fantasy's The Lord of the Rings or Horror's The Stand - basically it's a big-old book packed with story and intriguing concepts that kept the author coming back and helped to grow a large number of fans for the genre.

Of course, my complaint at the time was that the book was simply too darn big, and that if the author couldn't get his point across in a shorter format he needed to get a new editor.

Last Christmas I received all six of the books included in the recent Penguin Galaxy imprint and as I hadn't read the first two before (The Once and Future King and Stranger in a Strange Land) I felt this year might be a good one to read these titles and revisit some classic SF (also taking a quick side-trip into Isaac Asimov's Foundation series as well).

Reading Dune for the third time, and revisiting it after watching the movie, the SyFy channel miniseries and listening to the original film's soundtrack over and over again, I wasn't sure if there would be much for me this time around, but man was I wrong.

For starters (sorry for the fifty-plus-year spoilers) I had somehow completed ignored the environmentalism focus of the novel (also the fact that Lady Jessica was Baron Harkonnen's daughter - which is stated clearly, multiple times), and furthermore the darker aspects of Paul's rise to glory. For years I had heard from friends and others not to read the rest of the series as each book got worse and worse, but now I have to say I'm pretty interested - maybe not all of the fourteen novels that were written after Herbert's death, but the first five may be added to my science fiction reading list.

A really neat read, and in many ways a great introduction to the genre for newcomers.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Movie Review: Dunkirk

Last night my wife and I saw an advanced screening of Christopher Nolan's WWII epic Dunkirk, and I'm still in awe of what we saw.

The film breaks down the rescue of nearly 400,000 allied soldiers in late May and early June of 1940 from three different points of view; Land, which follows the soldiers attempting to evacuate, Sea, which follows the civilian ships coming to their rescue, and Air, which follows two air force pilots attempting to offer as much cover as possible.

The film is sparse on dialogue, with the lead from the Land section speaking very little until the end, but massive on immersion.  Hans Zimmer's score, often timed out with a stopwatch keeps the tension high and the action moving.

The sheer spectacle of the film was pretty amazing for me, but after a day to think about it, I think I preferred the characterization in Saving Private Ryan to this, which focused much more on the people than the events it covered.

A few caveats: the movie is loud, and in many cases the accents are thick, so unless you've got an ear for English accents, you may have some difficulty understanding some of the dialogue. 

In the end I found the film to be an incredibly immersive experience, and well worth seeing in theatres.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Movie Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

So I saw Spider-Man: Homecoming on Wednesday with my oldest daughter and I really, really liked it. The film is bright and colourful, fits itself comfortably into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and focuses on a key aspect of any good Spider-Man story, Peter attempting to find the balance between his superhero and school lives. Equal time is given to both, and the film borrows liberally from both previous MCU films and the teen-focused films of John Hughes to place Peter in a really interesting niche in the continually expanding franchise.

I have to admit I was initially hesitant when Marisa Tomei played Aunt May in Captain America: Civil War, but I really liked her in the film, also, I think it works to make Peter appear even younger and the Avengers much older and established.

In the end the movie is a lot of fun, and not getting into any spoilers, was really satisfying - I would definitely see more Spider-Man if it was coming from this creative team.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Movie Review; Baby Driver

Okay, fair warning, I'm a pretty big fan of Edgar Wright's movies in general, I own the movies, a TV show and have made a point to see every one of his films in theatres I can when possible.

So when I saw the first trailer for Baby Driver, I was already fairly certain it would be one of my "theatre flims" in 2017 (as compared to the "I'll wait for it on DVD" or the "I'll wait until I can borrow it from the library") films I see trailers for as well.

Although heist or crime films are not my favourite genre (no monsters, ghosts or things that go bump in the night), I've seen more than my share over the years, I've seen enough to understand the basic beats of the stories: successful heist to begin, introduction of the challenge, gathering of the gang, prep work, the heist, the heist goes wrong, the chase, the resolution.

Baby Driver hits all of its marks as a heist film, but then adds in music in a way I haven't seen outside of musicals before. As his previous film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World used fight scenes in place of musical numbers in a video-game themed boy-meets-girl story, Baby Driver uses music and sound from beginning to end to keep the audience engaged and the story moving.

Simply amazing, and currently my top pick for my favourite movie of the year.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Book Review: No Last Name

I first heard the name Jack Reacher back in 2010 while reading Stephen King's Under the Dome; his character is mentioned as a character reference for the protagonist Dale "Barbie" Barbara. At the time, I probably wouldn't have put it together, but a friend in my club mentioned that this was referring to Lee Child's book series featuring the character.

Two years later one of my book clubs selected the first Jack Reacher novel Killing Floor as a selection and from that point forward I read a book a month and slowly but surely got myself up to date. Now, like any number of other Jack Reacher fans, I'm stuck waiting for the new title to come out.

Luckily for me, I was able to get my hands on the book No Middle Name: The Complete Collected Jack Reacher short stories. The collection includes twelve short stories, most with Reacher as protagonist and a few with him as a supporting character or even as a cameo. Like the main novels, No Middle Name includes stories told from both first and third person perspective, ranging from senty-ish pages down to less than five. Although normally I like reading short stories in order of publication, Reacher's life is sort of made up of random events punctuated by violence, so the more episodic nature of this collection worked quite well for me.

A great read for fans of the character and also a potentially good jumping on point for new readers.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Book Review: The Last of the Wine

As I'm working my way through this list of 36 Historical Novels set in Ancient Greece, there are a few authors I'm always happy to get to, Christian Cameron and Steven Pressfield novels both make for excellent reads, but so far my clear favourites are the novels of Mary Renault.

Renault (1905-1983) wrote a number of both contemporary and historical fiction novels, but is most well-known for her works set in Ancient Greece. At this point I've read The King Must Die, The Bull From the Sea, and The Praise Singer, so I was definitely looking forward to The Last of the Wine. The novel takes place during the Peloponnesian War and follows a young man called Alexias, who is famed for both his beauty and his running.

Unlike most of the novels I've read off of the list (17 others to date), The Last of the Wine is largely focused on the lives of the Athenians in Athens. The novel focuses on Alexias teenaged and adult years and portrays the lives of young Athenian men almost as wealthy socialites. Renault does not shy away from homosexuality in the setting, indeed Alexias' father recommends he takes an older lover, and the love of Alexias's life is a man called Lysis. Both men are disciples of Socrates (who figures large in the story) and much of story involves how Alexias deals with his love for his friend over their lives.

A fascinating read and a picture of Athenian life that is too often shown in historical fiction as entirely focused on warfare.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Book Review: Dingo

Charles de Lint's 2008 novella Dingo focuses on two young men who both fall for the same girl, and what they do to try and win her affections.  Of course, being a de Lint story, there ends up being more than a little magic, danger and even a visit to a world separate, but not that different, from our own.

The novel focuses on Miguel, a seventeen-year-old high school student who falls immediately head over heels for the new girl in town, Lainey, an Australian girl with a strange dog.  Things get more confusing when the usually friendly Lainey starts acting like she's never met Miguel and then Johnny, a local bully, seems to take an interest in her as well.

The novel uses Australian folklore and merges it quite nicely with the world de Lint has created in his city of Newford.  None of his regular characters make an appearance in this novella, but as per usual, much of the story focuses on how normal folk deal with a undeniable confrontation with the world of magic.

A fascinating, if short, read.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Book Review: The Boy on the Bridge

M. R. Carey's 2017 follow-up to The Girl with all the Gifts, The Boy on the Bridge works as a prequel, and once again focuses on a small group of soldiers and scientists attempting to exist after an end of the world event.

The novel takes place on a mobile science station (think tank mixed with RV) that plays an important role in the original book.  Just as with the first novel, we are given one character to view this strange new world from, but this time, there are two protagonists, a scientist and a young man named Steven Greaves, who is a quiet, perhaps autistic young man who may be the human race's last, best chance for survival.

The novel works to create an incredibly tense, paranoid situation and plays with issues of consequences and living in a perpetual state of fear.

Well worth the read.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Book Review: The Isle of Stone

Nicolas Nicastro's 2005 novel The Isle of Stone takes a look at Spartan Society nearly sixty years after the battle of Thermopylae, specifically during the battle of Sphacteria (325 BCE).  The novel focuses on two Spartan warriors, Antalcidas and Epitadas, brothers who were raised in two very different, but traditional Spartan styes.

Much like John Gardiner's The Wreckage of Agathon, The Isle of Stone looks at the Spartan Empire with a jaundiced eye.  The empire is portrayed as brutal, and neither brother is drawn in a particularly heroic way.  What I really liked about the novel was the character of the warrior's mother and her rationalization for why she helps one brother and hurts the other.  The ethics of the Spartans, as described by Nicastro, definitely leave a lot to be desired.

The majority of the action of the story takes place with an army of Spartans under siege on a barren island surrounded by the Athenian navy.  The story moves quickly and although I didn't like it as much as Nicastro's other work on the list (Antigone's Wake - which I LOVED!), it does work to give an unflinching look at a culture often celebrated in our modern day.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Book Review: Stranger in a Strange Land

Reading Robert A. Heinlein's 1961 science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land was a curious experience for me; on one hand, the concepts - an examination of humanities strong focus on religion and monogamy from the point of view of an outsider were quite interesting - while on the other hand, Heinlein's views on women were dated to the point of extreme distraction.

The book follows Valentine Michael Smith, the human son of Earth colonists on Mars who was in turn raised by Martians and his visit to Earth as ambassador from Mars. Much of the focus of the book begins with ideas of misinterpretation and communication; at first human authorities hide Smith away and attempt to get him to sign away the rights he has to his own vast fortune as well as potentially the entire planet of Mars. From Smith's point of view this is all irrelevant as the Martians have sent him for an entirely different purpose.

Smith quickly makes friends with a nurse named Gillian and her journalist boyfriend Ben Caxton. A daring escape follows and the majority of the novel focuses on Smith's relationship with Jubal Harshaw, a writer/doctor/lawyer who offers the Martian asylum. Harshaw has three secretaries (a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead) who work in tandem to satisfy his professional needs - the blatant sexism here (perhaps seen as charming when the book was published in the early '60s) definitely pulled me out of the narrative repeatedly, reminding me that when reading any fiction it's important to keep in mind the context in which the story was written.

The book itself was a touchstone for American counter-culture in the sixties and introduced the concept of "Grok" meaning a sort of total understanding of another, and even introduced the waterbed in concept.

A compelling read, but historical context is key to making it through.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Movie Review: Alien Covenant

Here's the thing with prequels: I'm actually pretty hard pressed to think of any that I loved more than the original - in fact, it may be fair to say:

You should see any movie that later had a prequel made, as for the prequel, it's kind of up to you.

Now, as my wife quickly pointed out to me, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly are both technically prequels, as they occur before the earlier film that introduced the main character - so maybe take my earlier statement as a guideline rather than a hard and fast rule.

Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant is both a sequel to the 2012 film Prometheus and a prequel to the Alien Franchise. The film follows the crew of the Covenant, a ship bringing two thousand cryosleeping colonists to a new world who, after a solar flare accident, find a signal coming from a nearby world and decide to investigate it. As with more and more genre films these days, the production company released a number of crew videos and even a short bridging film connecting Alien: Covenant directly to Prometheus ahead of the films release. At this point I haven't seen any of those, preferring to watch and review the film on its own merits.

The action is pretty great, the creatures are terrifying and the crew does a nice job of portraying space truckers. I left the film quite impressed with how it was all put together, but a week later, and I'm feeling a little confused as to my current state. On the one hand, as a fan of the original film, I'm happy to revisit a world I've enjoyed a number of times, on the other hand, much of this film felt either like a retread or giving too much backstory to a creature that should remain mysterious. I will say that I was interested enough to see if there was a novelization (there is) and to add it to my used-bookstore wish list.

After all, an examination of the Alien franchise could be an October theme month some year.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Book Review: Planet of the Apes

For me, the 1968 film Planet of the Apes exists almost as long as my childhood memories of science fiction, along with shows like Mork & Mindy, Star Wars, and Star Trek the story of an astronaut trapped on a planet inhabited by intelligent apes seemed to always exist in my understanding of space-based stories.

Over the years I've seen the original film, the sequels, the remakes and the toys, so when a friend suggested we read the original French novel by Pierre Boulle, I was definitely intrigued. The novel follows a journalist named Ulysse Mérou, who in 2050 joins a spaceships crew to explore planets in the Betelgeuse star system. Here they find a planet inhabited by intelligent great apes, where humans exists, but as a wild animal rather than a dominant species.

There are a couple big changes from the film including the fact that the apes speak their own language, and the protagonist ends up spending much of his time learning it. I can definitely see why the film went with having them speak English, but this made for a much more interesting story. The story ends differently than the film and does have significantly more focus on the loneliness and isolation felt by Ulysse.

A really intriguing read and one I'm glad I got the chance to experience.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Charles de Lint's Little (Grrl) Lost (2007) is a YA novel focusing on a friendship between two teen girls, T.J. and Elizabeth, the first having recently moved from the farm to the suburbs and the second having just run away from home. Although T.J. is more straight-laced and Elizabeth is a little more punk, the big difference between the two of them comes down to size; while T.J. is a pretty normal young woman, T.J. is a Little, and therefore stands at about six inches tall.

The Littles were first introduced in the collection Tapping the Dream Tree, and although this novel does take place near Newford, it's connection to de Lint's regular cast of characters is pretty limited. A fun jumping on point for new readers and a great story about friendship and finding your place in the world as well.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Book Review: Gods Behaving Badly

So I've had a copy of Marie Phillips Gods Behaving Badly in my home for about five years now; both my wife and oldest daughter have read the book, and my wife had said she thought I would really enjoy it, so when I found a copy at a used bookstore I snatched it at once.

First things first - my wife was absolutely right, this is a delightful read and one I should have gotten around to long before this.

The novel follows the major gods of the Classical Greek Pantheon (Zeus, Apollo, Artemis, Aphrodite, Ares, etc.) in the modern world, where they share a small house in London, England. While trying to keep a relatively low profile, they end up affecting the lives of a number of mortals and the end of the world may occur unless a hero can rise to save them all.

A big part of what I like about the book is the soap opera-esque family dynamic shown between the various gods with plots, friendships, affairs and even wars occurring regularly. Yes, a lot of this type of concept has been covered elsewhere (American Gods, Greenmantle and Fables all touch on similar concepts), but Gods Behaving Badly has a nice sense of humour throughout and a reminder of how much more interesting fallible gods can be to a narrative.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Slow Reads


So although I have a specific reading pattern I tend to follow each month (LINK), there are a number of things I read that fall through the cracks.

1) Month-long Reads: During any given month I'll supplement my seven regular books with a book of non-fiction, usually essays, to read each night. As these books can take a month or longer to read, I don't often update them on my Goodreads list or even mention them on my blog. Current I'm reading Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto, and enjoying every bit of it.

2) Year-long Reads: A few years ago I received a horror anthology from one of my younger brothers that had a horror story a day for a year - usually these stories were less than a page long, but they were all a lot of fun. So, when I heard about Ryan Holiday and Stephan Hanselman's The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations of Wisdom, Perseverance and The Art of Living I had to give it a shot, and you know what - it's a pretty great read read! I'm about a third of the way through and find this book, read first thing in the morning gives me some pretty interesting stuff to think about all day.

3) Books my wife suggests: As my lovely wife is just as voracious a reader as I am, she'll often read a book that she know would be exactly my thing (for instance, she was the one who introduced me to the world of Charles de Lint), so every couple months she'll suggest something I have to squeeze in between my other books. Although she does suggest far more titles than I can immediately get to, I do keep a list and get to it when I've got time.

4) Other: And here we fit all the trade collection of comic books I read, as well as magazines, social media, and pamphlets, as well as all sorts of online content ranging from LinkedIn and Facebook posts to Doctoral Theses on Economics.

What can I say? Even for a guy who spends all his time reading it's often tricky to keep track of it all!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Book Review: Promises to Keep

So after finished Widdershins, wherein de Lint has written a very nice finale for two of his favourite characters, what is the appeal of a prequel novel looking at one of them during her college years? Actually quite a lot.

Promises to Keep follows perennial favourite Jilly Coppercorn in an earlier time in her life, shortly after she came to Newford in the first place, and works as both a great little story in its own right, and also a pretty great jumping-on point for new readers who may not want to go all the way back to The Dreaming Place, written nearly two decades earlier, as well as a story that acknowledges that although very interested in the magical aspects of the world, Jilly spends the first part of the series of books with no direct contact, only hearing about this world through the stories of her friends.

The story is short and sweet, focusing on issues of lost friends and things that may have been and left me feeling quite satisfied and looking forward to reading more.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Movie Review: Colossal

Throughout our lives every action we take (or don't take) effects people around us in ways we can't often see until well after the fact. Nacho Vigalondo's 2016 film Colossal takes this concept into the fantasy genre when Gloria, a young woman in crisis finds that for a few minutes each morning her actions directly affect the people of Seoul South Korea when a giant Monster exactly mimics her actions, causing destruction and mayhem wherever it goes.

The film alternates quite nicely between small-town drama and the heightened reality of a monster attack on the other side of the world. Recently dumped by her long time boyfriend, Gloria (Anne Hathaway), has returned to her small hometown and is living in her childhood home while attempting to find something to do with her life. She reconnects with a friend from elementary school and gets a job in a local bar, she begins to put her living space and life together, and then she gets swept up in the news stories surrounding a monster attacking Seoul. Things take a strange turn however when she starts to realize the creature is mimicking her movements each morning when she crosses the same playground on her way home from work.

The story depends strongly on the relationship between Gloria and Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) and how their friendship begins to move in a direction Gloria isn't interested in.

Although darker in tone than I was expecting based on the trailers, Colossal was well worth the watch and a nice change from the comic-book adaptations that tend to fill my spring and summer theatre viewing.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Book Review: Guillermo Del Toro: At Home with Monsters

A companion book to the museum exhibition of the same name Guillermo Del Toro: At Home with Monsters is a fascinating read looking at the collection of horror, science fiction, fantasy and other genres kept by the writer/director in his home.

The book focuses on many of the pieces of artwork (in many mediums) in Del Toro's collection, as well as an essay by the author himself, and three different lists of films, artwork and fiction the author has been influenced by - all of which are robust enough to keep even a massive reader like me enthralled for some time. An excellent addition to his 2013 book Cabinet of Curiosities, which went film by film through his works and related parts of his collection.

A wonderful Christmas present from my friend Ron - this book was quickly scooped up by one of my children for her own reading pleasure, so double bonus!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Book Review: American Elsewhere

Robert Jackson Bennett's American Elsewhere (2013), sits nicely in the same Horror/Science Fiction cross genre as the television series Rick & Morty - a place I (and any number of literature critics) like to call cosmic horror.

Cosmic Horror, largely influenced by the weird fiction (actually a genre classification, not a judgement - mostly) of Howard Phillip Lovecraft, focuses less on gore and terror and more on the fact that our world is merely the plaything of ancient gods and monsters who can not only destroy us with little effort, but probably wouldn't care if they did. Generally when characters in a Cosmic Horror story figure this out, they go incurably insane.

American Elsewhere follows an ex cop named Mona Bright, who discovers at the reading of her stepfather's will that part of his estate includes a house previously owned by Mona's mother, and it exists in a small town called Wink, New Mexico.

Unfortunately for Mona, Wink does not appear on any map, and she has a week to claim the home before it reverts to municipal ownership. Finding her way into the town, Mona finds a curiously perfect city, with any number of strange rules (actually, this is not dissimilar to Welcome to Night Vale - only really not played for laughs) such as no one can go out after dark, certain questions cannot be asked and certain buildings cannot be entered.

Also there some sort of demon in a rabbit mask no one is supposed to talk about.

Although topping six-hundred pages, the novel moves along a quite a nice clip and definitely kept me interested. Definitely worth a look!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Book Review: Tides of War

My third novel by Steven Pressfield on this tour of Ancient Greece through Historical Fiction, Tides of War takes place well after the events of The Last Amazon and Gates of Fire, but as with those previous novels, gets deep into the world of Ancient Greece and gives the reader a rare taste of the values and thoughts in world.

Taking place during the Peloponnesian War, Tides of War follows Alcibiades, the nephew of Pericles and one of the greatest generals of the Ancient World. The story is told through two layers; our narrator is interviewing the man responsible for Alcibiades death, who in turn is narrating his life alongside the general over this many campaigns.

What I found most interesting about the story was how little I knew about the general going in; when I've read previous works about Theseus or Sappho or Leonidas, I was at least a little familiar with their lives (Minotaur, Poetress, Spartan King), so when I started reading about a general who switched sides from Athenian to Spartan and even to Persian, I was quite surprised by just how unfamiliar I was with the historical figure. It did lead me to more than a couple quick stops at wikipedia to get a better grasp on the character, but as these books often do, I found it was well worth the distraction.

An intriguing introduction to the Peloponnesian War, and one that leaves me looking forward to the next book off of the list, Isle of Stone by Nicholas Nicastro, with more than a little excitement.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Movie Review: Their Finest

Lone Scherfig's Their Finest, based on the 2009 novel Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans, focuses on a film production by the British Ministry of Propaganda during the Second World War about the evacuation of Dunkirk. In many ways however, the film is about stories; why we like them, how we use them, and what goes into them.

The film takes place in 1940 and follows Catrin Cole (played by Gemma Arterton), a young writer hired to work for the Ministry and her growth as a writer and teller of stories. The film looks at film production from the point of view of writers, editors, producers, actors and executives, and works as both a great war story, and a story about how to tell great war stories.

The concept for the film within a film, two sisters piloting a stolen boat to aid in the Dunkirk evacuation, shifts from the actual event to the varied ways in which the story must or might be modified to better work as a film to inspire Britain, and perhaps even America into joining the war effort.

A really great picture, filled with heart, hope, and a love of the medium of film.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Book Review: Widdershins

One of my favourite things about reading Charles de Lint's Newford stories is how characters will pop up as main characters for a novel or a short story, and then step into the background for the next story; sure there are mainstays like the Riddell brothers or Jilly Coppercorn, but overall you get a different view of the city each time you go back sort of like Terry Pratchett did with Discworld.

Sometimes, however, you do really want to know what happens next, and in the latest of his books I've read, Widdershins, we follow up with Jilly a few years after the events of The Onion Girl and get to see what may be one of my favourite things in these types of stories, a collection of almost all my favourite characters over the twenty-years of stories working together to help a friend in need.

Like Louis L'Amour's The Sackett Brand (1965) or heck, even Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001), this book is really for the fans. For the people like me who have been reading about Jilly and Geordie since the short story "Timeskip" back in 1989, this is a really fun reward.

Almost every new story de Lint sets in Newford works as a standalone, but I will say this one works best if you've read the short story collections, The Onion Girl and Spirit in the Wires.

Well worth reading, and as I'm nearing the point where I'm up to the books published ten years ago, I'm already starting to get nervous about when I'll have to wait like every other de Lint fan for his new books to come out.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Book Review: Unnatural Creatures

Neil Gaiman's 2013 short story collection Unnatural Creatures takes a number of stories written about mythical creatures over the course of a little more than a hundred years, introducing readers to some really great stories and authors.

As with most short story collections, not all are perfect hits, but there are some really great standouts, Samuel R Delany's Prismatica and Larry Niven's Get a Horse, were both a lot of fun, and the final story, Come Lady Death by Peter S. Beagle was simply wonderful.

A great starter collection for people unfamiliar with the fantasy genre, Unnatural Creatures does a great job of showing some of the heights to which the genre can reach.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Book Review: Foundation and Empire

Isaac Asimov's Foundation and Empire, his 1952 follow-up to Foundation, continues where the last story left off; about three hundred years into a (hopefully) 1000 year Dark Age after the fall of a Galactic empire and before the rise of the next Empire. The series focuses on a science called psychohistory, which suggests that with careful tending, this Dark Age can be a mere millennium, rather than the thirty-thousand years it would otherwise take for galactic civilization to rise again.

The second novel focuses on two key events in the rise of the foundation: first, in The General, the last attempt of the crumbling Empire's military arm attempts to destroy the young Foundation before it can gain more power, and; second, in The Mule, a mutant is born with the ability to control those around him, throwing the original psychohistoric plans entirely out the door.

As with the first novel, the stories are short, but the ideas are huge. This was a fast and fascinating read that had me waiting on tender hooks to read the final book in the original series, Second Foundation, as soon as I could.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Book Review: The Blue Girl

Charles de Lint's 2004 YA novel The Blue Girl, follows two best friends Imogene and Maxine, through a year in Newford's Redding High. Throughout the novel the girls get involved in the world of Faerie (pretty much a requirement in a Newford-based story), and although there are a few familiar faces (Christy Riddell for one), this is mostly a new story with new characters in a familiar setting.

The book rotates between three narratives, Imogene, a new girl in school (and Newford), hoping to have a fresh start, Maxine, a quiet student looking for a friend, and Adrian, the ghost of a boy who died in the school years ago.

What I really liked in the story was just how small it was - there are no massive demi-gods or mystical creatures like in the Jack of Kinrowan books (which I also loved), just two friends trying to make it through the school year and getting caught up in something bigger than they expected. What surprised me the most in the novel was the depiction of Maxine's mother, who beings the novel as an almost cartoon-ish example of the controlling mom, but then changes throughout the story into a fully fleshed-out believable parent.

In the end the book was a lot of fun, and I hope I find these characters popping up in future works by de LInt.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Book Review: Antigone's Wake

Continuing on my journey through Ancient Greece via historical novels, I've now moved passed the Persian War into the beginning of The Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC). This is the whole Athens versus Sparta war that lead to the rise of the Athenian Empire.

This month's book was Nicholas Nicastro's 2007 novel Antigone's Wake, which focused on the character of Sophocles (playwright of Antigone, Oedipus Rex, Electra, etc.), and his career in his early fifties as a military general for Athens.

The novel is short, to the point, and does a great job of painting its protagonist as a man in transition. Sophocles friend Pericles suggests that as Sophocles already knows how to effectively mount a stage play, why couldn't he use his skills towards military victory, and honestly, it would be a largely ceremonial role in response to his recent success with the play Antigone.

The story works quite nicely in painting Sophocles as a man near the top of his game thrust into a position he never trained for or wanted, and how he deals with some terrifying challenges, including his own teenage son coming along for an "adventure".

Considering that history largely focuses on Sophocles role as playwright, an examination of him as military leader was a real treat for me, and one that has me looking to view some of his plays before moving onto my read for next month, which in the end, is the mark of any successful historical fiction novel.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Book Review: Magic

Years ago I picked up the novel Magic by William Goldman for two simple reasons: 1) I'm a big fan of his films (Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men, The Princess Bride, Marathon Man, etc.), and 2) I can never say no to a well received horror or thriller novel.

The story follows a young magician named Corky Withers who just can't seem to catch a break (Hey! I just got the pun on his name :) ) He's a technical pro at card-based illusion, but for some reason his audience presence is just no good; his patter isn't up to snuff, and his discomfort at the showmanship aspect of magic shines through much brighter than his skill set.

Just as he's about to give it up, he figures out a pretty creative new angle, and things start to look up for him.

Or do they?

First of all, what I really like about the book is how well it plays with expectations; everything from the narrative voice to the the shifting of time from past to present and future, really work as analogue for how a well-done card trick works. Just as you begin to piece together what's going on, the story shifts and you realize the author has just been distracting you.

A really fun read, and as I have never seen it, an excellent excuse to someday check out the 1978 film adaption starring Anthony Hopkins and Ann-Margret.