Tuesday 4 January 2011

Book Reviews

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Vortex
Troy Denning
Available Now - £18.99 (Hardback)
Review by Rob Wade

In Book Six of the bestselling nine-book Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi series, the suspense crescendos as the Skywalkers and their treacherous Sith allies race against time to discover the origins of the mysterious Force-entity known as Abeloth. When they begin to uncover secrets better kept hidden from mortal minds, no one is surprised to see the uneasy partnership erupt into violence. But they are surprised at where the investigation leads: to the home of the reclusive Fallanassi, who may hold in their hands the future of the Jedi Order itself.

This series has seen a significant amount of change befall the Star Wars universe, with both Skywalkers exiled from Alliance territory until they understand the fall of Darth Caedus, the Jedi Council on the verge of war with the Galactic Alliance and the Jedi working with the Sith among other things. However, this book is the first time you see some of the other background events come to a head, such as the undercurrent of slave revolt that’s been seeded all the way through the series. This is probably the main strength of the book in two regards.

Firstly, it makes the Star Wars universe seem a lot more real and ‘lived- in’ rather than a world where it seems like the only action is happening to the principal characters. Secondly, it develops the characters of the various Jedi involved in the Council’s decision-making process, and serves to illustrate the rising tensions between them over various points of contention over the course of the series. In fact, some of the novel’s best exchanges come from Jedi having internal verbal sparring matches, punctuated by one epic fight scene.

This book has a lot of the stuff that we know and love from Star Wars: big lightsaber battles and plenty of Jedi/Sith interaction. The only thing missing really is more starfighter battles, as there is only really one that stands out and that’s right at the beginning, and that’s awesome. Also, Lando is still alive, which is also win.

It’s not all greatness however, as over 400 pages the action occasionally grinds to a much slower pace, and there is what feels like a bit of filler. That being said, this is certainly a step up from the previous edition, as the action ramps up in more areas this time, and sets the story up well for future volumes.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating :
Violence : Lightsaber fights aplenty, and deaths on both sides. Who they are would be telling!
Sex/Nudity : None.
Swearing : Only canonically acceptable ones.
Summary: A steadily ramping up storyline of awesome, poignant and extremely action-packed. 8/10
The Horus Heresy: Prospero Burns
Dan Abnett
Black Library/Games Workshop

Available from Thursday 6th January - £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

The Emperor is enraged. Primarch Magnus the Red, of the Thousand Sons Legion, has made a catastrophic mistake that endangers the safety of Terra. With no other choice, the Emperor charges Leman Russ, Primarch of the Space Wolves, with the apprehension of his brother from the Thousand Sons home world of Prospero. This planet of sorcerers will not be easy to overcome, but Russ and his Space Wolves are not easily deterred. With wrath in his heart, Russ is determined to bring Magnus to justice and cause the fall of Prospero.

With crash, a roar and a spattering of boltgun fire, the Space Wolves have arrived in The Horus Heresy – and what an entrance it is. Following the story of Space Wolf bard/minstrel “Upplander” Hawser, Prospero Burns shows the inside of a loyal Space Marine chapter from an outsiders eyes, and this works really well. We explore their world and learn their terminology as Hawser does, and grow to know and love the Brothers as he does. It’s a simple way of doing it, but it works really effectively, here. I was never particularly taken with the Space Wolves before reading this: now I love them.

All of the characters are solid and likable (even the bad guys), and the novel actually pushes along the overall Horus Heresy storyline at a very solid pace (something that has been lacking in the last two or three books). Throw in some solid “cameo” appearances from major Primarchs, and this is a real winner. Roll on the next one!

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war. And a fair old amount of it, too.
Sex/Nudity: Some male nudity. Some references to intercourse.
Swearing: One or two strong uses.
Summary: A great instalment in the Horus Heresy series. Amazing characters, insight and it pushes along the main story at a steady pace. Well worth looking at – even if you know little of the Wolves of Fenris. 9/10

Gears of War: Anvil Gate
Karen Traviss
Orbit Books
Available Now - £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Rob Wade

With the Locust Horde apparently destroyed, Jacinto's survivors have begun to rebuild human society on their island stronghold. Raiding pirate gangs take a toll - but it's nothing that Marcus Fenix and the Gears can't handle. Then the terrifying life-forms they thought they'd left behind - the Lambent, creatures even the Locust feared - begin to advance across the planet. Gears and gangs must fight side by side to stop their deadliest enemy yet, falling back on the savage tactics of another bloody siege: Anvil Gate.

One of the most refreshing scenarios when reading or enjoying any sort of ‘tie-in’ media, whether it’s a film or a book or a TV show, is when the author clearly gets exactly what the universe is all about. Traviss, in particular known for her work on the Clone Wars era of Star Wars, is one of those authors that seems to fall into this category. This book *is* Gears of War, possessing everything about the game series that fans will love. From the mindless testosterone-fuelled violence and swearing (trust me, in the case of this game it’s a compliment) to the deeper character development going on below the surface, the aspects of the game that fans expect are there.

Pleasingly, Traviss has opted to focus a lot of the book on Baird, one of the secondary characters in the game who players never get to really see that much of. Fenix is painted both as testosterone-fuelled soldier and insightful genius (again, something that’s not really developed effectively during the games, though we know that his dad is a clever man), whereas Dom is still recovering from an incident involving his wife during the events of Gears of War 2.

Make no mistake, Karen Traviss gets it. You should too.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Gunfights, explosions, the works.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: A fuckton.
Summary: The closest thing you’ll get to Gears of War 3 before the game comes out. 9/10
Graham Hancock

Available from Thursday 6th January - £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Charlotte Barnes

As mankind faces its deadliest battle, two young women must unite to prevent the forces of evil from destroying the world as we know it. But theirs is no ordinary alliance, for these two women live at opposite ends of history, until fate brings them together and their destinies are inextricably entwined. Leoni, a troubled teen from the 21st Century Los Angeles finds everything she’s ever known thrown into disarray when a drug overdose catapults her into a parallel dimension. There she meets Ria, who is also suspended on the edge of time. Ria’s world is violent and desolate in a way Leoni has never experienced – but only together can they stop the powerful demon Sulpa, the Eater of Souls.

When I picked up this book to read, going by the artwork alone I presumed it was another trashy teenager paranormal romance novel. Oh, I couldn’t have been further from the truth! This is most definitely an adult novel; the first chapter alone contains murder, raping, gang-banging and plenty of swearing. It makes me sad that, in this post-Twilight world, publishers feel the need to dress up and market it as something that it isn’t. It fools young girls into reading it (generating sales, not always a bad thing...but - in this case - a sad thing) but excludes young males who would dismiss it as a girly novel.

The novel itself is a really interesting read. I really enjoyed the fact that each chapter alternates between Leoni’s life in the 21st Century and Ria’s reality 24,000 years ago. The pacing is superb as the small break between each reality leaves the reader in splendid suspense. The characters are well developed and you feel like you are right there beside them fighting the battle against Sulpa the most evil of demon foe. I love Hancock’s use of language, as it is not so descriptive that it is overly embellished, but it is just graphic enough that you really feel like you are in their surroundings.

The only thing I found particularly jarring was Hancock’s use of modern day colloquial language being spoken from the mouths of people that are supposed to have existed 24,000 years ago. I guess they would always have had examples of swearing in their own languages, it just seems strange to hear them use modern swear words.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Epic amounts of carnage, disembowelling, castration and AK 47’s.
Sex/Nudity: Gang-bangs and raping.
Swearing: Plenty: Ria and Leoni have potty mouths!
Summary: A surprisingly intriguing novel from Graham Hancock! By the way he leaves it at the end; I presume there will be a sequel. I look forward to my next adventure with Ria and Leoni! 8/10
Jon Mayhew
Bloomsbury Publishing

Available Now - £6.99 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

The sister is a knife-thrower in a magician's stage act, the brother an undertaker's assistant. Neither orphan knows of the other's existence. Until, that is, three terrible Aunts descend on the girl's house and imprison her guardian, the Great Cardamom. His dying act is to pass the girl a note with clues to the secret he carries to his grave.

Cardamom was one of three explorers on an expedition to locate the legendary Amarant, a plant with power over life and death. Now, pursued by flesh-eating crow-like ghuls, brother and sister must decode the message and save themselves from its sinister legacy.

The core story here is nothing to get excited about. It’s a very generic kids’ fantasy story – the sort of thing that Neil Gaiman would crap out in an afternoon, if he put his mind to it. Once the main characters are introduced a little better, however, and they are generally likable. The main problem lies in that the main “gimmick” as such, (an M.R. James type Gothic horror tone) feels very chromed on. It could have been deep space sci-fi or anything else just as easily.

There are some great action sequences along the way, and some very atmospheric parts, too. Ultimately, though, there’s nothing to truly lift Mortlock up above the crowd, and this is a decidedly average children’s fantasy novel.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Some scuffling, with lots of blood, gore, evisceration and grisly deaths described in near-splatterpunk detail.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: There are some flashes of genius in this, but the majority is far too formulaic. The “Gothic horror” tone feels rather pasted on over a story we’ve read many times before. Mayhew is one to watch out for in the future, though. 6/10
Tyme’s End
B.R. Collins
Bloomsbury Publishing

Available Now - £6.99 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

Bibi feels out of place everywhere - everywhere that is, except for Tyme's End, the deserted house that she breaks into when she thinks nobody is nearby. There she unexpectedly meets Oliver Gardner, the owner of the house, who's just returned after ten years away. Their story and the story of Oliver's grandfather becomes inextricably entwined, linked as they are by Tyme's End itself.

For Tyme's End is more than just a deserted house. It is a house that by turns can be romantic, beguiling, sinister and malevolent. It is a house that had a cruel and manipulative owner. And anybody who enters Tyme's End must prepare themselves for terror...

Collins writes really well, and there are some genuinely tense and sinister moments in Tyme’s End – not to mention some absolutely stellar dialogue. It takes its cues from James Herbert and M.R. James, and when it’s good, it’s very good. Unfortunately, the story feels only half-formed, and it’s hampered by a very unsatisfying ending.

In fact, the last third of the book (the Grandfather’s story) totally derailed me from “Oooh! This is interesting!” to “Oh...what’s the relevance of this?”. The ending is ambiguous, and not in a good way. It just feels as though Collins didn’t know what to do, and left it with an “Oh, you figure it out” ending in a vague attempt to be clever.

Oh, Collins? That romance between a sixteen year old girl and a twenty-seven year old man was creepy, no matter how cleverly you tried to do it. Don’t do that again, or you’ll wind up in the Hutson bin.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: Some snogging with an awkward age-gap. Some references to homosexuality.
Swearing: Frequent, mild/strong.
Summary: An occasionally atmospheric and creative ghost story, but ultimately unsatisfying and lacking cohesion. 5/10


1946 - 2011

You have to be pretty damn special to have Steven Spielberg refer to you as “the best actor in the world”. Whether or not he was the best in the world, Pete Postlethwaite certainly was something special.

On Sunday 2nd January 2011 Postlethwaite passed away, aged sixty-four, after a lengthy struggle with cancer. He is survived by his wife, one son, and one daughter. Everyone here at Emotionally Fourteen extend our condolences to his family and would like to celebrate his life by pointing out some of the most E14 moments of his career:

Born Peter William Postlethwaite in Cheshire, England, he developed a taste for the theatre whilst attending college. He eventually worked as a drama teacher before entering Classical Theatre alongside peers such as Julie Walters and Bill Nighy, even entering the Royal Shakespeare Company.

He soon branched into TV and movies, often playing the gritty working man perfectly. Most of our audience will instantly recognise Postlethwaite as David from Alien 3. His dry wit fit perfectly with the Sci-Fi madness as he somehow added realism to the fantastical plot.

A year later he reached what many refer to as his critical peak as he received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Giuseppe Conlon in the dramatic In the Name of Father.

1996 was a great year for Postlethwaite as he first featured in Roald “E14 for kids” Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach. He then became the monk, Brother Gilbert of Glockenspur, alongside Dennis Quaid and Sean Connery in Dragonheart.

In one memorable moment from the movie he once again demonstrates his stunning ability to perform quirky comedy alongside deeply emotional lines as he takes pot-shots with a longbow from a tree during the climatic battle. He first shoots a soldier in the buttocks and delivers the line: “Turn the other cheek brother”, with a wide smirk on his face, and a second later, as he realises that his next shot must be a kill shot, and that he must break his vows, he pulls back the string with agony and determination on his face as he again quotes the Bible, with a broken “Thou...shalt...not...kill...”

In the same year, he returned to being all classical as he portrays Father Lawrence in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, in which he is the only character to speak in Iambic Pentameter, which is Shakespearian for “really, really awesome”.

His last movie of the year was Brassed Off, in which he shows off his gritty working-man persona once more. His big speech to the media near the end of the movie is a magnificent testament to the actors humble beginnings as he almost puts the other actors in the movie through an acting lesson, running through a smorgasbord of emotions perfectly.

In 1997 he took on the roll of big game hunter Roland Tembo in Jurassic Park: The Lost World. He shot a fucking T-Rex in the neck. If that wasn’t enough, he also formed a tag-team with Optimus Prime and beat Darth Vader in a lightsaber duel. (These things may have only happened because I had the Roland Tembo action figure as a kid.)

Rolling through sci-fi thriller Aeon Flux with his usual ease, he found himself in the 2006 remake of The Omen as Father Brennan, and landed a part in the underated/overated Solomon Kane, as well as returning to the theatre to play a truly remarkable King Lear in the Shakespeare play of the same name.

In 2010 he was a part of the remake of Clash of the Titans as he brought back to life Perseus’ father, Spyros. One of the lines he delivers here, an angsty sound-off against the gods, was so well done that not only was it a prominent quote from the film, but also the main quote of the trailer:

“One day, somebody's gonna have to make a stand. One day, somebody's gonna have to say “enough.””

In a now-eerie scene from 2010 blockbuster Inception, he again tugged at the heart strings as he plays the dying father of Robert Fischer in the scenes climax.

His last movie was the yet-to-be-released comedy flick Killing Bono. If his career is anything to go by, he will steal the show.

Thousands of words can be written about the man, from his charity work, his “green” attitude and his remarkable acting talent. At the end of the day though, only one thing matters:

Pete Postlethwaite OBE will be greatly missed.

His unique outlook on life can be summed up in a quote from the man himself, regarding the Spielberg “Greatest Actor in the World” mantra:

"I'm sure what Spielberg actually said was; 'The thing about Pete is that he thinks he's the best actor in the world.’”

Peter William Postlethwaite OBE

7 February 1946-2 January 2011

Words: Omer Ibrahim

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