Tuesday 16 November 2010

Book Reviews

Mass Effect: Retribution
Drew Karpyshyn
Orbit Books
Available Now - £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Rob Wade

Humanity has reached the stars, joining the vast galactic community of alien species. But beyond the fringes of explored space lurk the Reapers, a race of sentient starships bent on 'harvesting' the galaxy's organic species for their own dark purpose. The Illusive Man, leader of the pro-human black ops group Cerberus, is one of the few who know the truth about the Reapers. To ensure humanity's survival, he launches a desperate plan to uncover the enemy's strengths - and weaknesses - by studying someone implanted with modified Reaper technology. He knows the perfect subject for his horrific experiments: former Cerberus operative Paul Grayson, who wrested his daughter from the cabal's control with the help of Ascension project director Kahlee Sanders.

But when Kahlee learns that Grayson is missing, she turns to the only person she can trust: Alliance war hero Captain David Anderson. Together they set out to find the secret Cerberus facility where Grayson is being held. But they aren't the only ones after him. And time is running out. As the experiments continue, the sinister Reaper technology twists Grayson's mind. The insidious whispers grow ever stronger in his head, threatening to take over his very identity and unleash the Reapers on an unsuspecting galaxy…

One of the things that has always struck me as good about the series of books based on the Mass Effect games is how true they stick to the universe, while at the same time only involving fringe players as far as casting goes. Aside from the first book, which dealt with the first game’s villain heavily being as it was a prequel and a lead in to the character’s turning to evil, they have generally only involved characters that appear in the games as NPCs, and that’s not even that often.

One of the draws going into this book for fans of the series is more involvement from the game’s shadowy Illusive Man, a figure that appears sparingly in the second game as a driving force of the plot. This book could so easily have been spoiled by having him appear in every other scene like so many clichéd film villains, but he doesn’t; his character isn’t evil in the strictest sense either, it’s hard to make that call in the case of the Illusive Man. His appearances are suitably malevolent enough to make you think twice about accepting his invite to Coffee Republic, but noble enough to keep you from labelling him as a maniac.

This book is engaging from start to finish, with the pacing being right almost all the way through. There are points where the action is a little rushed, and then points where it completely flips and becomes quite lumbering, but overall the book is an absolutely storming read.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating :
Violence: Gunfights, assassinations, bio-experimentation. The whole shebang.
Sex/Nudity: Mentions of sex and tits.
Swearing: A few light uses.
Summary: A great lead into Mass Effect 3 and essential for any fan. 9/10
The Art of Tron: Legacy
Justin Springer
Disney Editions/Turnaround

Available from Thursday 2nd December - £28.99 (Hardback)
Review by Brad Harmer

In 1982, Disney released the groundbreaking sci-fi/fantasy film Tron. Famed for its iconic visual style, the film was one of the first films from a major studio to extensively use computer graphics. Audiences were blown away by the new technology gracing their screens and have spent decades craving for more Tron. Now, after more than twenty-five years, fans of the film look set to get their wish with the forthcoming Tron: Legacy.

Now, of course, the cash-in, coffee table book.

The Art of Tron: Legacy takes readers behind the scenes, with concept illustrations, set design, character bios, stills, and a piece from the director, Joseph Kosinski.

Unfortunately, as iconic a movie as Tron is (and, hopefully, Tron: Legacy will become), and as striking as its visual may be on the screen, when transferred to the printed format, they lose a lot of impact. If you want an artbook that’s basically 150-odd pages of blue neon lines, then this will suffice. The look of Tron is all very samey – intentionally so, of course. Moving around and flashing by on screen, that’s great. Looking at photo after photo of it is less impressive.

The printing and presentation of the book as a hole is great, and it’s a shame that Turnaround have been let down by such boring source material – given something more visually striking, they could turn in something really good.

If you’re excited by the new movie, then you’ll probably want to pick this up as there’s plenty of info and sneak previews and whatnot. If you’re not foaming at the mouth, then you may just want to hang back until the January sales. If you couldn’t give a toss about the new Tron movie, then there’s nothing here for you in terms of pure visual pleasure. Move along.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Sex/Nudity: None
Swearing: None.
Summary: One for Tron obsessives only. There’s little here of interest to casual readers, as the uniform nature of the subject matter makes for pretty repetitive viewing. 4/10
Depresso or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace Being Bonkers

Available Now - £12.99 (Trade Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

The world is plagued by madness. With leaders bent on insane policies and too many citizens locked in crippling depression, normality seems elusive and questionable. Part travelogue, part indictment of mad medicine, Depresso is Tom Freeman's journey through the vagaries of the system to emerged scathed but content with being 'bonkers'.

The story unfolds over several years, in China and the UK, during which anti-depressants reduce Tom to a zombie and alternative therapies drive him to comic re-examinations of his life, his work and relationships.

Depresso is endearing and grim at the same time. Tom Freeman is a great, everyman hero, and his struggles with work, family and his illness are all very easy to identify with. You want him to get better and get happy, because he’s so normal. The artwork is generally simple in its execution, but how its used – in both the framing and in more metaphorical senses when accompanying the narrative – are excellent.

The only real problem with Depresso is the pacing. The story often moves a little too slowly and frequently often lags in one area for too long. The time in China, for example, could have done with some better editing. Then it can go in circles over and over the same old ground again. Maybe that’s the point – it’s showing how depression makes you feel like you’re never progressing and just going in circles...but it doesn’t make for a spectacularly interesting read.

A good comic, with an endearing personal touch. Well worth a closer look.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: Some references.
Swearing: Mild.
Summary: A frequently gruelling but ultimately uplifting tale of dealing with depression. The artwork is simple but imaginative. It drags its feet every now and again, but this doesn’t ruin the overall impact. 8/10
Aladdin: Legacy of the Lost
Ian Edginton\Patrick Reilly\Stjepan Sejic
Radical Publishing
Available Now £10.99 (Trade Paperback)
Review by Rob Wade

Thief, gambler, liar and cheat, Aladdin's reckless soul falls under the eye of the sorcerer Qassim, who has spent his life scouring the sands for the Dreaming Jewel. This lost relic of shattering power will enable Qassim to steal the magic of the Djinn of the Lamp and reshape the world in his own malicious design. But to do so, he requires a mystical ability carried within Aladdin's blood...power that not even Aladdin himself knows about.

If you go into this as I did with no knowledge of the tale of Aladdin, save for the 1990s Disney movie, you’d think that you’d be completely lost in this alternate telling of the story. This is a much darker version of the story than most would be used to, but thankfully shares enough in common with other versions than you might think. Still, if you’re looking at this with the idea that it’ll be light and fluffy, go and buy a quiche instead.

The story in this volume is totally solid, with the usual story of Aladdin elaborated upon with a little more depth, and for some reason the introduction of Sinbad (not the comedian) into the story. Thankfully, he is more of a plot device than anything else, and intervenes in about the same way as someone who gave Batman a lift if his Batmobile didn’t work for some reason. Maybe it needed new tyres, and he needs a special type that you can’t get in Kwik Fit.

Artistically, this is a superb comic, with artwork reminiscent of The Darkness in its tone. The action itself is also dark, with a significantly larger number of sandworm devourings than I recall from the Disney classic. These are all awesome though, and establish Qassim as a much more dangerous character than previous iterations of the fable.

There is, however, quite a bit of information to take in here, and it may be a little much for younger readers both in terms of depth of information and also the sombre tone of the book itself. However, if you’re a more mature reader (being E14 aside) this is a tale that I’d heartily recommend picking up.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Swordfights, and people being eaten by sandworms.
Sex/Nudity: None . Loads of shapely women who look like they’re going to get naked, and then they don’t.
Swearing: One use of “piss” in context.
Summary: A really engaging version of the story, and worth picking up. 8/10


Following on from the successful BBC Scotland TV series, Scottish internet sensation Limmy has unleashed his six part comedy series on BBC DVD. The hugely popular sketch series is written, performed, directed and animated by Brian Limond.

Combining character pieces, arresting inserts, diverting visuals, casual violence, cutting observations and sketches – Limmy’s Show is an inventive feast for the senses, from the mind of one of Britain’s most original comedy talents. So if you haven’t yet entered Limmy’s world, it’s about time you jumped in. This special two disc DVD release will also feature extras including the BAFTA award nominated pilot of Limmy’s Show, original homemade versions of the sketches and Limmy’s own unique picture-in-picture commentary of the series.

Writer/performer/director/web-developer Brian Limond has become something of a phenomenon thanks to his website www.limmy.com. The extremely popular site features his blog, videos, pictures, playthings and the World of Glasgow podcasts.

Alongside characters honed on the web, Limmy’s Show features a new collection of unique sketches and scenarios. There’s a cast-list of personas Limmy fans will be familiar with; like hard-bitten ex-junkie Jacqueline McCafferty, urban menace John Paul and zoned-out waster Dee Dee - plus a whole range of new characters including animated primary school power broker Wee Gary and adventure game phone-in host Falconhoof.

In addition, Limmy pops up regularly as Limmy, making some extremely Limmy-like observations on life – he also plays with his omnipotent supercomputer, which does anything he wants it to.

As well as massive online following Limmy’s fans include writer Graham Linehan, writer performer Peter Serafanowicz, musician Calvin Harris, award winning comedy writer producer Robert Popper, and comedian screenwriter and actor Matt Lucas.

Thanks to our friends at 2entertain, we've got two copies of Limmy's Show on DVD to give away! For your chance of winning send in your name and full postal address to limmysshowgiveaway@yahoo.co.uk before midday on Tuesday 23rd November. The first two names out of the electronic hat will win a copy each!

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