Being Black in Video Games

Being Black in real life isn’t super easy. Sure you always have company whenever you go shopping, even if you started alone. You’re more likely to have a living will or healthcare proxy (at least you should). Because Black folks are dropping dead like it’s Jim Crow again.
South Park’s new game recently introduced a slider that was labeled “Difficulty” and changed the character’s race. The darker you are the “harder” the difficulty. It’s funny because it’s true.

At least Fractured But Whole lets you be a person of color if you really want to. Or if you just really want to see a person of color as a hero in a video game. Continue reading “Being Black in Video Games”

Review: The Girl with All The Gifts by M.R. Carey

The girl with all the giftsEveryone and their mother is reading The Girl With All The Gifts, and that is how it should be.

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.
When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite. But they don’t laugh.
Melanie is a very special girl.
 

It’s hard to review this without spoiling the various reveals. A smart reader will figure things out fairly early on in the book, but the discovery process is still part of it.
Enough to say that M.R. Carey has created a wonderful, unique take on a tired old concept. The Girl With All The Gifts is a heartbreaking novel, in places. The characters are real, and believable. Melanie herself is a lovely main character to spend time with.
We also spend time in the heads of the other characters. This could have spoiled the book, but Carey has the skill of writing genuinely different POV without ever confusing the reader.
The ending is right, and natural. It could never have ended any other way, but it still comes as a surprise. The whole way through The Girl With All The Gifts, we are asked to challenge our attitudes to humanity, and to ‘monsters’ and the ending makes it happen perfectly.
Read this book.

My Boyfriend is a Monster: I Love Him to Pieces (by Evonne Tsang)

On a whim I picked up a graphic novel from the 80% off shelf at Comicopia with low expectations and a piqued curiosity for something apocalyptic (as always). One of the books I grabbed was My Boyfriend is a Monster: I Love Him to Pieces by Evonne Tsang. This is one in a series of books about girls who love boys lacking some of the qualifications to make them human. Most of these boys are also deadly dangerous and in the case of I love Him to Pieces, deadly contagious. Le Sigh. Dumb bitches live for love.
In I Love Him to Pieces Dicey is a Jock (the only girl on the school baseball team) and Jack Chen (always referred to using his full name) is a nerd. They’re paired up together on a project to raise an egg for health class and end up getting along swimmingly. Jack Chen is awkward and doesn’t have many friends in school. He’s an only child and his parents are always away on business because they’re both scientists. Dicey on the other hand, is popular with a super close relationship with her widowed father and young brother.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because that what the books is about mostly. Page after page of a cutesy, high school relationship in its budding stages. It was well crafted and well drawn and well… if you’re looking for a zombie tale, it’s well boring.
So, against all odds (expect not really at all), Dicey and Jack decide to be a couple and go on a corny date during the school day. They ditch school and take the bus to a park where they hear police and stuff going places… Finally, the zombies!?
Psych, this is where we spend time chatting with their parents and being lame as shit.
So I won’t spoil it but this is like three quarters into the book so it’s not exactly a riveting tale of survival and mayhem.

Final Thoughts on My Boyfriend is a Monster: I Love Him to Pieces [SPOILERS]

  1. I get why this was 80% off. It’s nothing that would call for high demand. A very ordinary tale on both the romance and zombie fronts.
  2. Jack Chen’s parent’s know exactly what caused the zombie outbreak, and how to cure it and it’s totally a non-issue and all the fucks can go back in the box because there was no need to give them.
  3. The characters are kind of stick figures (not because of the art, which is good) in that they’re just very basic outlines of individuals. Jock and Nerd. Jock carries bat all the time, Nerd knows everything about all the things.
  4. This isn’t a BAD book per se. It’s just not a good book or graphic novel or story… I think a middle school girl might like it. It has that simplistic story telling and happy-go-lucky outlook that’s just not realistic for those of us well versed in the apocalyptic fiction.
  5. For 80% off, I Love Him to Pieces was worth a read. It was easy and light and good looking.

STUFF

I’m still moving, and currently wondering how I got so much STUFF. I won’t be able to keep so much STUFF with me post-apocalypse, that’s for sure!
Like last week I direct you towards an interesting post-apocalypse thing.
Awesome Zombie Stories.
That should take up an hour or two you should be spending working.
And hopefully in a week or two I’ll be back to writing proper posts. Because of course, your life is bereft without my paranoid rambling.

The Future We Left Behind by Mike A. Lancaster

No cover image available at this time

The Future We Left Behind by Mike A. Lancaster

Release date: November 13, 2012

Publisher: Egmont U.S.

Review copy provided by the publisher

(Note: This book was published in the UK as 1.4)

Currently, there is no blurb for the U.S. version of the book, so here is the Amazon blurb for the UK version (but note that some aspects of the book may have changed during editing for the U.S. version):

It’s a brave new world. In the far future, people no longer know what to believe…Did Kyle Straker ever exist? Or were his prophecies of human upgrades nothing more than a hoax? Peter Vincent is nearly 16, and has never thought about the things that Strakerites believe. His father – David Vincent, creator of the artificial bees that saved the world’s crops – made sure of that. When the Strakerites pronounce that another upgrade is imminent, Peter starts to uncover a conspiracy amongst the leaders of the establishment, a conspiracy that puts him into direct conflict with his father. But it’s not a good idea to pick a fight with someone who controls all the artificial bees in the world.

YOU GUYS. This book. THIS BOOK. I…have no words. But in a good way. Which is shocking for me, since I can’t recall the last time a book rendered me speechless.

I shall preface the inevitable squeeing by saying that I read this book, beginning to end, in one sitting. I very rarely do that anymore, because, well, I have kids. And every now and again, I like to sleep. So I usually read in short chunks, usually about five minutes at a time.

But this book! Holy godiva, it sucked me in and spat me out on the other side. One minute I was sitting in the rocking chair outside my toddler’s room (part of her bedtime routine), the next it’s three hours later and my Kindle progress bar is saying 100%.

Continue reading “The Future We Left Behind by Mike A. Lancaster”

Author Feature: John Xero.

Long-time readers may remember John Xero from his brilliant short story Ragestorm Requiem. Well, those of you who liked it will be pleased to hear he has a book out. This is The New Plan is a collection of his short stories and flash fiction, and what’s even better, most of them are apocalyptic or dystopian in some way.
As for why I’m not reviewing this, John Xero is actually a personal, real-life friend of mine, so I don’t feel like I can. Still, taking that into account, I still think it’s a bloody good book. Just bear in mind I’ve known him for long enough that I pretty much have to say that. (No, seriously, it’s great.)
We asked him some personal questions, because we’re always secretly judging people by their answers.
 

 
 

1. Who are you, I mean, really?

Presumably this is where most people say, “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” The truth is so numbingly boring you’d probably kill yourself just from hearing it…
And so I become this adventurer, I travel to worlds, chat with gods and spacemen, witness wars and births, dance with stars and mourn over broken cities. And do I send you back a ‘wish you were here’ postcard or a lame ‘I <3 the Multiverse’ t-shirt? No. I bring you back stories.
That doesn’t really answer the question, does it? 😉

 
2. What is it that you do?

When I’m not stumbling into timeslips, lunching with deities (minor and major), or practicing my interstellar cartography, you mean? 😉
Well, OK. I play games, I read comics, I sell books, I write. My day job is bookselling, I run the science fiction and graphic novels sections for a branch of Britain’s biggest bookselling chain. And I get up extra early every morning to write.
Writing is my great passion. I love stories and storytelling, and I just want to give back some of the excitement and thrills other writers have given me over the years.

 
3. When did you first realize you wanted to do that thing?

Ah, I kind of made this difficult to answer now, didn’t I? Let’s start with the bookselling…
I dropped out of university the first time round, struggled to find a job, and ended up in data entry. Yay. Then I applied for a job in this awesome little SF and cult shop called Kulture Shock, and I got it. Surrounded by the stuff I love, all day, and getting paid for it? Yes. OK. I can do that. And have, ever since.
I started writing in my late teens. Told myself it was worth pursuing if I could stick it out and write a book.
I wrote a book.
I daren’t look at it, I do have it somewhere, but I’m sure it’s awful. It started me on the path though. I fell in love with writing. I’m not in a rush to get anywhere, but I’m slowly getting somewhere, I think, and that’s fine.

 
4. Where are you from (and how do you feel about that place?)?

I don’t really know the answer to this. I’m mostly English with a dash of Scottish, but then English is a medley of so many things already. My dad built roads, so we moved around a fair bit. I guess you could say I grew up in East Anglia, I’ve settled in Norwich though, just about the most parochial city you’ll ever find, but it’s a beautiful place and I’m happy here.

 
5. Why would you make a good apocalypse party member?

Why do tribes need storytellers and shaman?
Do you want your party to be the one that descends into savagery or the one that sparks the rebirth of civilisation?
Need a modern set of moral and cautionary tales for living in a dark and dangerous new world, ones that maybe incorporate the ideas of a golden age and a bright future? Come to me.
So it probably helps that I’m a thinker and a problem solver. And I’m physically fit and capable, so I won’t slow folk down when there’s running to be done.
And basically, I’ve already walked the dusty grounds of a thousand apocalypses in my mind, you need my experience…
 
Blogs at xeroverse.com
Tweets at @xeroverse
Editor at 101Fiction.com

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]

Post-Apocalyptic Reading: Impressions – THE LAST MAILMAN by Kevin. J. Burke

Description of Kevin. J. Burke’s The Last Mailman[1. This book was provided for review byPermuted Press]

Four-year degree in business. Trained in hand-to-hand combat. 
Works well with zombies. 
This is the resume of the last mailman on Earth. It is the near future, and the modern world we knew has been overrun and destroyed by reanimated corpses who hunt humans for food. Mankind has retreated to small pockets of civilization and practically surrendered to the walking dead. But one man routinely leaves behind the safety and comfort to find the people and things we’ve long abandoned. He battles the elements. He battles his own brewing insanity. 
But mostly, he battles zombies.

Well, now, this is a bit more like it.
Continue reading “Post-Apocalyptic Reading: Impressions – THE LAST MAILMAN by Kevin. J. Burke”

Nelya from Dusk:Origins

As promised yesterday, I am including some original and exclusive fiction to celebrate the launch of my new collaberative blog serial, Dusk: Origins.
Meet Nelya. To follow more of her story, and the story of Jacob, Cassidy and Frida, check out Dusk: Origins every sunday.
It was the fourteenth day she had woken on her own, without the tribe. She knew this, because she had made marks for each day on a piece of leather she carried. Fourteen marks meant fourteen days. Though, really, it could have been more. There had been days that she couldn’t count, where her arm and her head burned and the fire blurred her memory. There had even been some days that hadn’t mattered at all. Those days she hadn’t marked. There could be two, five or even ten of those days.
But since things had started to matter to her again, there had been fourteen.
Continue reading “Nelya from Dusk:Origins”

Nelya from Dusk:Origins

As promised yesterday, I am including some original and exclusive fiction to celebrate the launch of my new collaberative blog serial, Dusk: Origins.
Meet Nelya. To follow more of her story, and the story of Jacob, Cassidy and Frida, check out Dusk: Origins every sunday.
It was the fourteenth day she had woken on her own, without the tribe. She knew this, because she had made marks for each day on a piece of leather she carried. Fourteen marks meant fourteen days. Though, really, it could have been more. There had been days that she couldn’t count, where her arm and her head burned and the fire blurred her memory. There had even been some days that hadn’t mattered at all. Those days she hadn’t marked. There could be two, five or even ten of those days.
But since things had started to matter to her again, there had been fourteen.
Continue reading “Nelya from Dusk:Origins”