Review: Dinocalypse Now by Chuck Wendig

Dinocalypse Now  is the first book in The Dinocalypse Trilogy – Evil Hat’s first move into fiction, written by Chuck Wendig, and set in the wild-and-crazy early-20th-Century pulp universe of Spirit of the Century. In it we follow the adventures of six heroes, Centurions of the Century Club (including one talking ape!), as they take on a world-spanning invasion of psychic dinosaurs from beyond time itself. [1. Review copy provided by Evil Hat]

YES. YES YES PLEASE FUCK GOD YES.
Oh I am so bored of Zombies and Guns and something this crazy is JUST WHAT I NEED RIGHT NOW.
It doesn’t hurt that I’ve long been a fan of Chuck Wendig – his writing advice is brilliant, and his novel Blackbirds is one of the best I’ve read this year – and I’ve played a few Spirit of the Century games too – that whole alternative past with fantasy elements thing is MY thing.
Dinocalypse Now manages to completely avoid ALL of the problems I talked about in this post. It features interesting, unique characters who seem like real people, a breakneck, unusual plot – I actually cannot fangirl about it enough, so…
Let’s start from the beginning.
Dinocalypse Now is a book that is almost impossible to describe. If you try, it sounds like a mess… but it works. Oh, it works.
In Dinocalypse Now, the Centurions are the heroes of the Century club, a group of protectors. While trying to protect the president, they are attacked by Saurians… and from there the plot takes off with ridiculous speed. There are so many fantasic things about this book that would be spoilers if I explained them.  But suffice it to say the events grab the reader and take them away on a journey that would seem ridiculous if I explained it, but seems believable as well as fun when you’re reading it.
The writing in Dinocalypse Now is sharp and competent and descriptive, the characters well sketched and believable, and the whole thing is a wild ride of awesomeness. It’s sheer pulp, with airships and dinosaurs and talking apes and beautiful wench wrenches and love triangles and… and… and.
It’s a quick read, which I know is important for some of you (though myself I prefer a slightly more leisurely pace – that would be my only real criticism here).
Look, I find it really hard to review stuff I genuinely love. Is Dinocalypse Now great literature? No. Is it hella fun? Yes! Is it perfect? No. Is it utterly readable? Yes! Is it for everyone? Almost certainly not. But I love it. And if you like ridiculous, cracky plots, excellent characters, sharp writing, and a well-captured pulp sensibility, you’ll love it.
I look forward to the others.
You can buy it here.
I give it [4/5 stars]

Review: Orchid Volume 1 (Dark Horse)

When I first heard about Orchid (blurb and facts are down below), the brain child of Rage Against The Machine‘s Tom Morello, I had low expectations. Admittedly, I thought he was already skilled in one area, music, what were the chances he would be skilled in another completely unrelated one, comics.

I’d read interviews and press releases that made me think Orchid would be a heavy-handed political and social diatribe vilifying politicians and the rich and babying the rest of us, barely held together with pictures– pretty much a Chick Tract for social revolution.
When I finally got my hands and eyes on Orchid Volume 1[1. A copy of this title was provided for review by Dark Horse Comics.] I found myself wrapped up in a fast-paced action-adventure starring the quirky and blindly optimistic nerd, Simon, and the surly whore, Orchid, with nothing and everything to lose.
Volume one, covering issues 1-5, is a proper set up of the characters and why we should care about them. This post-apocalyptic world is vast, feeling vaster than the current world at times.
The first couple issues start with historical exposition set over elaborate, intricate scenes. I was reading on my kindle fire and often found myself zooming in to see what all was going on. Tom Morello (writer) and Scott Hepburn (artist) brought this somewhat over done setting new life. From fascinating creatures roaming the wild to the concept of people spending generations on “the derelict barges,” it all felt fresh and exciting.

But once the characters took center-stage it was hard to notice much else– though the art stays well done throughout– with the snappy dialogue and constant progress.
Orchid, Simon, and The Mask (this is an actual, literal mask but with so much legend and power it is pretty much a character in its own right) face more than their fair share of foes and near misses. At some points the adventuring hits a lull and I realized this is seriously heavy, seriously sad, and just generally serious.
That’s one of the greatest things about Orchid; it takes the path of children’s stories and parables, the lesson and the story work so well together that I didn’t realize I was being taught.
I was attached to the story and the characters and the world as not only a fantastic place but also the home of these people who deserved better. Before I knew it, after experiencing their world, watching their struggles, triumphs, and failures, and even getting a glimpse at the antagonists, I’d joined their revolution.
Almost every character — the exception being some villains who do seem to be more symbolic power hoarders than individuals– is fleshed out with a back story, from being a simple bridge folk whore to a nerd who wouldn’t be so out of place elsewhere where he was a slave specially trained because of his aptitude[2. I thought Simon was a time traveler when he was first introduced, until his manner of being was explained away sufficiently enough to re-suspend my disbelief].
You’ll be hard pressed to read Orchid and not to be moved or inspired on some level. Maybe simply by Simon’s unwavering courage and idealism, maybe by Orchid as a strong woman, or even by one of the “villains[3. Issue #5 SPOILER: I’m not willing to call Don Barrabas an actual villain so much as a survivor/victim/pawn who aligned with a man, Tomo Wolfe, willing to do right by him to accomplish much greater wrongs.]” who was somewhat of an ugly duckling (if the ugly duckling turned out to be a duck hunter-chef).
Sure, you might not feel you’re now expertly educated about class warfare or moved to “damn the man, save the empire.” But I can definitely say through Tom Morello telling Orchid’s story I felt heard, and seen, and important as a woman, and a person of color, and a nobody with no power or clout. Generally, as a person with things that can be or have been used to marginalize me. In Orchid, all those things that they use against us were the building blocks to make powerful characters, powerful ideas.
At the end of most comics the writer includes a short essay about their thoughts on the work. While I don’t really I care about nearly any issues, including class, in the real world, the passion Tom Morello shows for this project and this message is the kind of passion that can only create great things.

I’ve always been drawn to epic tales. Beowulf, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars. But for me, there was always something missing. I could never entirely get behind the goal. “C’mon, subjects! Let’s get the king back on the throne!” Or “To arms, vassals! Let’s return the princess to glory!” In my book, kings and princesses are the bad guys. But what was really missing from these epic tales was the unspoken but ever present dirty five-letter word: CLASS. Who rules and why? Who has a lot and who has nothing? And why the hell doesn’t somebody do something about it?! In Orchid the cool monsters, the narrow escapes, and epic battles are front and center, but somebody finally does something about the remorseless inequality that mirrors our own world. And that somebody is Orchid.

Orchid is successful as something new and different, something intriguing and engaging, and something worth reading.
I’d stand up to The Hangman for it.
[rating:5/5]
 

The facts about Orchid Volume 1 direct from Dark Horse:

When the seas rose, genetic codes were smashed. Human settlements are ringed by a dense wilderness from which ferocious new animal species prey on the helpless. The high ground belongs to the rich and powerful that overlook swampland shantytowns from their fortress-like cities. Iron-fisted rule ensures order and allows the wealthy to harvest the poor as slaves.
Delve into the first chapter of Orchid, the tale of a teenage prostitute who learns that she is more than the role society has imposed upon her.
CREATORS
Writer: Tom Morello
Artist: Scott Hepburn
Colorist: Dan Jackson
Cover Artist: Massimo Carnevale
Genre: Action/Adventure

Publication Date: July 11, 2012
Format: FC, 112 pages; TP, 7″ x 10″
Price: $17.99
Age range: 14
ISBN-10: 1-59582-965-2
ISBN-13: 978-1-59582-965-8

 

Review: War against the Walking Dead – By Sean T Page.

More than 63% of people now believe that there will be a global zombie apocalypse before 2050…
So, you’ve got your survival guide, you’ve lived through the first chaotic months of the crisis, what next?
Employing real science and pioneering field work, War against the Walking Dead provides a complete blueprint for taking back your country from the rotting clutches of the dead after a zombie apocalypse. 
* Arm yourself with the latest scientific insight from the world’s leading zombiologists including startling new analysis on why survivors must fight back within the first years of the crisis or risk being crushed by unstoppable ‘meta-hordes’ of the walking dead.
* A glimpse inside the mind of the zombie using a team of top psychics – what do the walking dead think about? What lessons can we learn to help us defeat this pervading menace?
* Detailed guidelines on how to galvanise a band of scared survivors into a fighting force capable of defeating the zombies and dealing with emerging groups such as end of the world cults, raiders and even cannibals!
* A strategic plan on how to deploy anti-zombie forces including training your new militia, creating fleets of foraging ships and a microlight air force.
* Features insights from real zombie fighting organisations across the world, from America to the Philippines, Australia to China – the experts offer advice in every aspect of fighting the walking dead.
Packed with crucial zombie war information and advice, from how to build a city of the living in a land of the dead to tactics on how to use a survivor army to liberate your country from the zombies – War against the Walking Dead may be humanity’s last chance.
Remember, dying is not an option !
There are a lot of zombie survival guides out there these days. It seems I can’t go into a bookshop without seeing one – so how is the zombie preparer supposed to make a choice? Apart from the classics, where are they to turn, and what makes one zombie manual better than another? What should make you buy War against The Walking Dead? [1. provided for free by Severed Press. The author also attempted blatant bribery and corruption by including some cool rubber bracelets in the package. For future reference, I’ll take cash.]
Well, this one is a bit special, for one main reason.
Instead of covering the immediate aftermath of a zombie assault, as so many guides do, it focusses on the destruction of the zombie plague and the rebuilding of society. With sections on how to organise a community, trap and kill large numbers of the living dead, and how best to rebuild communities after the end it concentrates on an area we at ICoS find sadly under-represented in the survivalist world. Most survival guides concentrate on immediate survival, which is all well and good, but what about long term? What about rebuilding?
This is where War Against the Walking Dead comes in. With in depth coverage of how best to survive zombie assaults both small and large, the pros and cons of various survival compounds, and how to build a fighting force out of scared, hungry refugees, it really is an excellent resource. If this decently-sized tome hasn’t been enough for you, it includes lists of other websites and books to help you with your rebuilding plans (though we’re not on it. I DEMAND AN EDITED REPRINT.). Definitely worth the purchase price, and unlike many books of a similar kind, it is attractive as well.
In terms of the writing, it is very readable and informative, and in places very funny. There are flaws, of course, but the day a book without flaws is written is that day the world of writing and publishing collapses in on itself. In places the sentences can run on, and the writing can be clumsy. There are minor errors in grammar which, while they don’t ruin the book, had the misfortune to include some of my pet hates (the use of commas where – : or ; would be more appropriate), but if you aren’t the sort of person who ignores their own grammatical errors to concentrate on a little known grammar guideline, you’ll probably ignore it just fine – and ultimately, the occasional clunkiness doesn’t detract from the book at all.
Of most interest to ICoS readers – even the non-zombie kind – will be the sections on rebuilding and battle techniques – these were based on real techniques through the ages, and could be useful in any apocalypse – so any serious post-apocalyptic survivalist could do with this on their shelves.
Overall, an excellent zombie survival guide. Minor flaws knock 1 star off.
Rating: 4/5
As well as buying his book, you can talk to Sean on his website, The Ministry of Zombies.

Book review: Dark Magic by James Swain

Dark Magic cover

Book review: Dark Magic by James Swain, published May 2012 by Tor Books

Note: The review copy was provided by the publisher.
Blurb:

Peter Warlock is a magician with a dark secret. Every night, he amazes audiences at his private theater in New York, where he performs feats that boggle the imagination. But his day job is just a cover for his otherworldly pursuits: Peter is a member of an underground group of psychics who gaze into the future to help prevent crimes. No one, not even his live-in girlfriend, knows the truth about Peter—until the séance when he foresees an unspeakable act of violence that will devastate the city. As Peter and his friends rush to prevent tragedy, Peter discovers that a shadowy cult of evil psychics, the Order of Astrum, know all about his abilities. They are hunting him and his fellow psychics down, one by one, determined to silence them forever. Dark Magic is a genre-bending supernatural thriller from national bestselling novelist and real-life magician James Swain.

First off, I’m going to admit that while I love science fiction and fantasy, I no longer read a lot of urban fantasy. Why? Because, quite frankly, I’m tired of reading about vampires, werethings, and ninja heroines with attitude problems.
Second, I’m going to admit that this review has taken such a long time to write because I read the book twice. (Yeah, I really it.)
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Book review: The Unbidden Magic series by Marilee Brothers


 
 
 
 
 
 

The Unbidden Magic Series, by Marilee Brothers (Moonstone, Moon Rise, Moon Spun, Shadow Moon). Published by Bell Bridge Books.

Review copies were provided by Bell Bridge Books.
This review covers a series of four books, so I’m not going to write the blurb for each of them. That would just take too long.
Here’s the background: 15 year old Allie Emerson is given a moonstone necklace by her friend and sometime guardian, Kizzy (who is a Romany Gypsy, but everyone calls her a witch). Allie’s mother, Faye, is pretending to have fibromyalgia to get out of working.
So, okay. The moonstone necklace. It’s pretty, it’s a necklace, it has special powers. (I KNOW.)
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Book review: The Fate of the Species by Fred Guterl


Publisher’s blurb:[1. Review copy provided by Bloomsbury USA]

The revelatory account of the biggest threats we face as a species–and what we can do to save ourselves.
In the history of planet earth, mass species extinctions have occurred five times, about once every 100 million years. A “sixth extinction” is known to be underway now, with over 200 species dying off every day. Not only that, but the cause of the sixth extinction is also the source of single biggest threat to human life: our own inventions.
What this bleak future will truly hold, though, is much in dispute. Will our immune systems be attacked by so-called super bugs, always evolving, and now more easily spread than ever? Will the disappearance of so many species cripple the biosphere? Will global warming transform itself into a runaway effect, destroying ecosystems across the planet? In this provocative book, Fred Guterl examines each of these scenarios, laying out the existing threats, and proffering the means to avoid them.
This book is more than a tour of an apocalyptic future; it is a political salvo, an antidote to well-intentioned but ultimately ineffectual thinking. Though it’s honorable enough to switch light bulbs and eat home-grown food, the scope of our problems, and the size of our population, is too great. And so, Guterl argues, we find ourselves in a trap: Technology got us into this mess, and it’s also the only thing that can help us survive it. Guterl vividly shows where our future is heading, and ultimately lights the route to safe harbor.

Note: This book is available from Amazon on May 22, 2012.
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Graphic Novel Review: DOLLHOUSE VOLUME 1: EPITAPHS

Publisher’s blurb:
The Rossum Corporation’s Dollhouse technology has gone viral with a synchronized phone call that wiped the minds of everyone it reached, turning them into mindless killers. Those who avoided the call–including show favorites Echo, Alpha, Mag, Zone, and Griff–must try to survive in the sudden apocalypse and be wary of Rossum’s expansive technological reach.

In DOLLHOUSE VOLUME 1: EPITAPHS (Dark Horse) [1. This book was provided for review by Dark Horse] we get a look at the worst case scenario for the imprint technology used in Dollhouse the TV show. Robo-calls are made to just about everyone in America and if the person at the other end answered the phone, they were hit with an imprint. The imprint erased their personality and replaced it with that of a blood-thirsty killing drone.
Imprinted people have no actual reasoning or logic, just standing orders they’re compelled to obey. If every last person is dead, they don’t just snap out of it because the job’s done. Nope. They can either go on to task number two, be erased, or be reprogrammed.
Is a person still a person if you remove them from their body? Similarly, is a body still a person without the individual person inside of it?
It has always been easy enough to decide that a zombie should be killed. A change takes place that removes them from the Human bucket. Not only do they die but they also look dead and act inhuman.
What if they only did one of those things? Would we be so quick to pull the trigger or swing the bat if Mrs. May still looked exactly the same except with a new rage behind her eyes?
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Comic Review: The Strain #1

The Strain #1 [1. Review copy provided by Dark Horse]
When a Boeing 777 lands at JFK International Airport and goes dark on the runway, the Center for Disease Control, fearing a terrorist attack, calls in Dr. Ephraim Goodweather and his team of expert biological-threat first responders. Only an elderly pawnbroker from Spanish Harlem suspects a darker purpose behind the event-an ancient threat intent on covering mankind in darkness.
* From director Guillermo del Toro and novelist Chuck Hogan (Prince of Thieves)!
* Adapted for comics by Eisner Award-winning writer David Lapham!

I’ll be honest, I have no idea if The Strain is going to go apocalyptic or not- but it’s a damn good comic.
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Book review: Endworlds by Nicholas Read

Note: My review copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley. I can no longer seem to find the publisher’s website, so unfortunately I can’t link to it.
Another note: This is actually a series, so “book 1.1” won’t get you the whole story.
Amazon blurb:

Billionaire industrialist Raef Eisman loses his daughter on an airliner in midair after flying through a strange electrical storm. With no body, no ransom and no explanation, he embarks on a crusade to find her . . . which sees him ousted from his company, stripped of his fortune and vilified by the world press. Only his faithful assistant, retired special forces colonel William Hills, stands at his side as they uncover primitive legends of ‘skypeople’ in the clouds, the trafficking of humans between dimensions, and a worldwide conspiracy of revisionist history that obscures our race’s true origin and purpose.Thought mad by his peers, Eisman inexplicably disappears as his vehicle plunges into the Thames. Instead of the 50-year old corporate raider emerging from the depths, a soggy 15-year old amnesiac rises in his place. A boy with no identity and no past.Dubbed “Eastwood” by those who find “the boy with no name”, he is conscripted by an underground army of teen refugees in the tunnels below Waterloo. Wards of an ancient organization intent on protecting the world from an increasing alien and inter-dimensional threat, these “Longcoats” induct Eastwood into a new life, with new allies and deadly enemies: the Fae’er of the First Age; the ageless Cassandrans; the shadowy Dae’mon; and a covert military junta known only as GRID – all on a collision course.

So…okay. This book has an interesting premise, that’s for sure. Raef’s disappearance early on was a little weird, especially considering an amnesiac teenage boy seemed to take his place. (Although that whole process was interesting, too.)
It took me a long time to read even a small part of this book. That in itself is usually not a good sign (well, for me, anyway; YMMV). I only got a quarter of the way through before I stopped reading.
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Book Review: Apocalyse How by Rob Kutner

[1. provided for review by Running Press]
Let’s face it: Our world’s gotta go sometime.
Whether it’s due to mushroom clouds, asteroids, a mad supergenius, Jesus, newly sentient iPods, or Pod People, everything about life on Earth is going to change.
And you should be psyched.
APOCALYPSE HOW is a comprehensive cataclysmic guide that walks you through the Nine Most Likely World-Ending Scenarios, and provides useful and inspiring advice on every aspect of surviving (and thriving!) in the new world to come. Covering everything from food, shelter, and relocation to social life, dating, recreation and career, APOCALYPSE HOW is the only book you’ll need – and just might be the last one left at all.
 
OK, this is going to be a short review. Why? Because if you like this website, you will LOVE this book.
Continue reading “Book Review: Apocalyse How by Rob Kutner”