Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Book Reviews

Dead Space: Martyr
B.K. Evenson
Titan Books Ltd
Available Now - £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Rob Wade

When geophysicist Michael Altman hears of the mysterious signal emitted from deep within the Chicxulub crater, he joins a team excavating the underwater crater. The artefact, named The Black Marker, possesses a mysterious power. Close proximity to the stone causes visions of the dead, vivid dreams, and violent murders. When Michael secretly obtains a small piece of the marker, he too begins to dream. The Black Marker has chosen him to hear his message: You need to prove yourself worthy of eternal life, or the slate will be wiped clean on Earth. This is the story of the origin of The Black Marker, the foundation of the Church of Unitology, and a discovery that will change the world.

Dead Space: Martyr essentially tells the story of what happened to lead into the events of the first game. What it does, it does very well: the source material is used to great effect to create, in this case, something that feels very right in the canon of the series. Evenson’s use of imagery is very good, and the beings that Altman encounters are described in suitably grotesque detail to keep people who enjoy the games entertained. The action scenes are particularly good, as is the character development. The characters feel very real as you’re reading along, and the buildup is such that you can see what’s coming in a good way and there’s an impending sense of dread which feels along the lines of playing the first game for the first time walking along going “fuck fuck fuck I’m going to die fuck fuck fuck.”

At least, if your first playthrough was anything like mine.

However, despite the effective buildup, the book does take a fairly long time to kick into gear by the standards of a videogame adaptation. Persevere, though, and you’ll find a book which is as engaging as it is appropriate for the fanbase. Video game novel adaptations seem to be improving as a whole, and there are few which ‘get’ the source material better than Dead Space: Martyr

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Dismemberments are frequent, as are fights and scraps.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Fuck and shit are bandied about a bit.
Summary: A really enjoyable read, which feels like a valid entry in the universe. 8/10
The Gathering: A Darkness Rising Book
Kelley Armstrong
Little, Brown

Available Now - £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Charlotte Barnes

Maya Delaney has always felt a close bond with nature. The woods around her home are a much-loved sanctuary - and the paw print birthmark on her hip feels like a sign that she belongs. But then strange and terrible things begin to happen in the tiny medical-research town of Salmon Creek (population: 200). The captain of the swim team drowns mysteriously in the middle of a calm lake. Mountain lions appear around Maya's home, and won't go away. Her best friend, Daniel, starts experiencing 'bad vibes' about certain people and things. One of those people is Rafe - the new bad boy in town. What is he hiding - and why is he suddenly so interested in Maya...?

Ask any of my friends and they will tell you that I have a major hard-on for all of Kelley Armstrong’s novels...until now. The main qualm I had with this novel is the lack of tension and conflict; although there is some petty jealousy that rears its ugly head between a couple of the teenagers in the book, it isn’t really until roughly 100 pages before the end that any real clashes actually take place.

This book seems to play more on Armstrong’s weaknesses than her strengths as it predominantly focuses on scene setting and character development. Of course she does this in her other series, too, but never to this extent. It is quite clear that her comfort zone is in conflict and clashes of characters and it is through these that you begin to love her characters because through these tribulations their personalities shine. Although she is brave in trying a new style and approach to her writing, I do not feel that she has hit the nail on the head with this one.

However this is only the first in a new series of novels, so one can only hope it will get better from here. I for one will always keep reading her books.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
Some fighting and images of death.
Sex/Nudity: A little petting/snogging, all above clothes.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A decent young person’s novel, but on normal Kelley Armstrong’s level this is slow and (I hate to say it) lazy. 5/10
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After
Steve Hockensmith
Quirk Books

Available Now - £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After opens with newly married protagonists, Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy, defending their village from an army of flesh-eating unmentionables. But the honeymoon has barely begun when poor Mr. Darcy is nipped by a raging dreadful. Elizabeth knows the only acceptable course of action is to promptly behead her husband (and then burn the corpse, just to be safe).

But when she hears rumours of a miracle antidote being developed in London, she realizes there may be one last chance to save her true love - and for everyone to live happily ever after.

The first to spawn a line of increasingly unfunny “literary mash-ups”, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was released back in 2009, and having endured a prequel and a graphic novel adaptation, the series now finally draws to a close with this instalment and – it’s the best of the bunch. This is because rather than being constrained into the – frankly, grossly overrated – storyline of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, this is allowed to head off into its own directions and becomes quite a good zombie/action adventure.

The down side is that, for a book that is at least partially a comedy, it’s just not funny enough. It raises the odd smile here or there, but if you’re going to write a comedy book, you’d best be sure that it’s funny every step of the way. Ultimately, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After is amusing, but nothing earth-shattering. If you’re a fan of the series, then this is the best one. If you’re not won over, then leave this on the shelf.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
Frequent scenes of martial arts combat against both ninjas and zombies. Bladed weapons, firearms, extended gore sequences, kung-fu and mass rumbles.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: Mildly amusing and an improvement on the original, but it would be a stretch to say that it was really funny. Some good ideas, no real bite. 6/10

COMICS CORNER

2000AD #1729
Available from Wednesday 13th April

Review by Brad Harmer

Judge Dredd bolts straight out of the gate this week with action, action and more action. The framing and the angle of the artwork in this one is just excellent, and it has a pretty satisfying conclusion, too. A good fun one.

Up next is Flesh, which is actually getting better all the time. The writing is now starting to feel like classic Pat Mills, and it’s great, fun, weird, action-packed stuff. I’ve already said plenty about the artwork in previous weeks, so I don’t feel a need to keep harping on about that. Either you love it or hate it by now; and either way it’s not going to change.

Dandridge is a funny beast – funny weird and funny ha-ha. It’s like a bizarre mash-up of Doctor Strange, Ghostbusters and the Dudley Moore movie Arthur. It’s great fun stuff, though, and the photoshop effects on the artwork in this issue are especially nice.

The Twisted Tale in this issue from Bob Byrne is actually miles better than the pretentious masturbation that they usually are, but still an unsatisfactory space filler in an otherwise great issue.

The Red Seas has a major plot development kick in, too – one to watch...

A limp middle story, but 2000AD is one the up! 8/10

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES FIRST DAY OF FILMING

Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Rob Marshall, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides captures the fun, adventure and humor that ignited the hit franchise—this time in Disney Digital 3D™. Johnny Depp returns to his iconic role of Captain Jack Sparrow in an action-packed tale of truth, betrayal, youth and demise. When Jack crosses paths with a woman from his past (Penelope Cruz), he's not sure if it's love—or if she's a ruthless con artist who's using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. When she forces him aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge, the ship of the formidable pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane), Jack finds himself on an unexpected adventure in which he doesn't know who to fear more: Blackbeard or the woman from his past.

The international cast includes franchise vets Geoffrey Rush as the vengeful Captain Hector Barbossa, and Kevin R. McNally as Captain Jack's longtime comrade Joshamee Gibbs, plus Sam Claflin as a stalwart missionary and Astrid Berges-Frisbey as a mysterious mermaid.



IT'S TIME TO PLAY THE MUSIC, IT'S TIME TO LIGHT THE LIGHTS

Marvel and Disney Publishing will debut Disney•Muppets Presents: Meet the Muppets, an giant-sized comic featuring Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzy, Gonzo and the Muppet gang. Hitting stores in July 2011, this 96 page comic features stories from acclaimed writer/artist Roger Langridge (Thor: The Mighty Avenger). (All ages, $5.99 (£3.75))

In Disney•Muppets Presents: Meet the Muppets, the gang plans to revive their variety show and bring back favorite sketches like Pigs in Space and Veterinarian’s Hospital. Meanwhile, Kermit misses the swamp, and the gang tries to cheer him up. Fozzy revamps his standup act, but everything he tries gets the same boos as his original routine. Scooter attempts to figure out once and for all what species Gonzo belongs to. And a psychic tells Miss Piggy she’s going to lose something green.

“Together with Disney Publishing, we’re extremely excited to bring the Muppets to the comics world and continue to grow their audience” said Axel Alonso, Marvel Entertainment Editor-in-Chief. “Marvel will ensure that Disney•Muppets Presents will be available at all retail segments for its cross-generational fan base. The Muppets are some of the most beloved pop culture icons ever, so we can’t wait for fans to experience these great stories from Roger Langridge”

ANIMALS UNITED 3D GIVEAWAY

Animals United 3D, sees James Corden and Stephen Fry join forces with Dawn French, Jim Broadbent, Andy Serkis, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Donovan, Joanna Lumley, Omid Djalili and Billie Piper for an adventure which takes them to all the way to Africa.

In the Okavango Delta, Billy, the little mischievous meerkat, and his best (and only) pal Socrates, the friendly lion, wait for the annual flood, essential to the Delta and all the animals living there. Wanting to prove to his adoring son Junior that he's not the screwball loser everyone, sometimes justifiably so, thinks he is, Billy sets out to find water, accompanied by Socrates. On their journey, they meet a truly wild and funny bunch of animals from all over the world, who have flocked to Africa in search of a new home.

Thanks to our friends at Entertainment in Video, we've got five copies of Animals United 3D on DVD to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to emotionally14@hotmail.co.uk before midday on Tuesday 19th April, making sure to put "Animals United 3D" as the subject. The first five entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "Animals United 3D" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Animals United 3D is available from Monday 25th April, priced £19.99 (DVD) and £24.99 (Blu-ray).

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

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