All posts filed under: Reviews

Reviews of books, movies, tv-shows.

Women of the Wasteland – Mad Max: Fury Road

It’s been many years since I watched the first Mad Max movie. Honestly, I don’t remember it that well. I recall it as a low-budget revenge tale in a quasi-dystopian urban landscape (unlike later movies, government and law enforcement still existed, society had not collapsed.) Max Rockatansky as played by Mel Gibson has such a strong accent he is almost unintelligible, and women are largely absent except to be rescued, raped, or killed at various points in the story. At no point in this tale do women have even the tiniest bit of agency — they’re victims, period. Most of the time, they don’t even have the dignity of proper names. My main impression of that first movie is how stunningly post-apocalyptic it was NOT. Where are the crazy outfits, the mad nomads in the desert? Mad Max isn’t a lone ronin wandering the wastes, he’s a highway patrol cop with a boss yelling at him to do his paperwork. I think it can be argued that the first Mad Max movie is a kind of cinematic prologue, an origin story, …

Before the Dark Knight: Gotham

In all the movies, in all the cartoons, in all the comics, never has anyone done as perfect of job of capturing why Batman exists. Batman exists because Gotham exists, and Gotham is the Heart of Darkness. The city depicted in this TV show is so corrupt, so morally bankrupt, so beyond redemption, that the creators of this show are answering a question I never even realized I was asking: why would Batman put on the cowl in the first place? What made him who he becomes?

Monsanto Wants Your Soul (book reviews)

Or, reviews of two dystopian novels: Karen Faris’s Grumbles the Novel, Part I: Take a Pill and Chuck Wendig’s Under the Empyrean Sky. (Note: I purchased both books, and was not asked to review them.) So a few weeks ago my business required me to do a fair bit of airplane travel. In a perfect world, that would mean five or six hours of solid writing, but coach airplane chairs are so small it’s almost impossible to do any real typing without smashing my elbow into the poor bastard sitting next to me. So instead I read a couple of books. In hindsight, I was amused to discover that I had unwittingly chosen books of a THEME, that theme being: GMOs are going to eat you. In both cases, literally. The first book I picked up was part 1 of Karen Faris’s Grumbles series. Now, I’m going to start with what I hated about this book: it’s not a complete novel, but ends just the story is starting to ramp up. Now, trilogies can be tricky …

Glamour Review (plus a sale!)

One of the books my publisher World Weaver Press recently published is called Glamour (written by Andrea Janes), and while on the surface the book is about witches, don’t let that fool you. It’s really about how power corrupts, the contrast between haves and have-nots, judging books by their covers, and the dangers of getting what you wish for (especially when it comes at someone else’s expense.) Good stuff, wonderfully written. Really the kind of work that deserves to be shared, so where I am, sharing it. So I wasn’t given an advance reader copy of this book but I actually went out and bought it myself. Because. (Okay, I liked the cover art.) I’m very glad I did. As Hannibal Lecter once asked: What do we covet, Clarice? Answer with me: we covet what we see every day. In this case, the ‘we’ is a young woman named Christina, who grew up in, lives, and works in a small Cape Cod resort town that might once have been the set of a Lovecraftian group of cultists, but now …

Leaving Carcosa: Post-Mortem on True Detective

This is coming in a bit late for those who have already finished watching the first series of True Detective (I wrote this the night after the season finale, but real life interfered with the posting,) but I figure the show will have a long tail as people watch it later, so here we are. So first, some background: I only started watching True Detective because I heard about the King in Yellow connection. For those unaware, the King in Yellow is the name of a collection of short stories written by Robert Chambers, published in 1895. He borrowed the city of Carcosa from writer Ambrose Bierce, but otherwise introduced the idea of the mysterious titular entity, a occult ‘Yellow Sign’ and a play that would drive its viewers insane. Only four stories in the collection directly concern the King in Yellow, but that was enough. Chamber’s work was lovingly appropriated by H.P. Lovecraft and merged with the greater Lovecraft milieu, becoming part of a rich body of horror mythology, the King in Yellow accepted …

Reviews: Books on Writing

Over the holidays and into the new year, I’ve been reading two books on the craft of writing itself: Dwight Swain’s Techniques for the Selling Writer and Stephen King’s On Writing. Dwight Swain’s book is pretty old, a bit hard to find, and honestly I’d never heard of it before I started to wonder why YWriter (my program of choice of late for book writing) had some of the special features it does for action and reaction scenes and the like. I wasn’t quite sure what to think of Dwight Swain’s book at first: it’s pretty clearly meant for pulp writing and some of the advice seems better suited to short stories than novels. While Swain himself is quick to point out he is simply describing tools which may be used or discarded at will, some of his most fervent advocates take his advice nearly to the point of religious gospel. Despite this, it’s a terrifically meaty book, filled with some of the best advice I’ve ever seen on pacing and creating tension. One could …

Dracula, or When Villains are Dumb

So I don’t normally post reviews here, but I’ve been watching the show Dracula recently, and I’ve got some comments I just have to get off my chest. It’s about villains, and I’ll use Dracula as an opportunity to discuss them. (There will be spoilers below.) So if I had to give the elevator pitch for the TV series, it would be: It’s the Count of Monte Cristo, but the Count is Dracula, not Edmund Dantes. Also: steampunk. It’s not a perfect show, but it’s entertaining and Johnathan Rhys Myers sure is pretty, isn’t he? Like the Count of Monte Cristo, the main story revolves around a mysterious stranger who arrives in town with a lot of money, some exotic servants, and a plan to get his revenge on the people who wronged him and his. The people who wronged him are in this case a big illuminati-like organization called the Order of Dracul (which if you’re paying attention to actual history, is the real-life ‘let’s kill all the Turks’ group to which Vlad Tepes’ …