Tuesday 8 March 2011

Book Reviews

Star Wars: Knight Errant
John Jackson Miller

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

Get this in the E14 Store for £5.00

The Republic is in crisis. The Sith roam unchecked, vying with one another to dominate the galaxy. But one lone Jedi, Kerra Holt, is determined to take down the Dark Lords. Her enemies are strange and many: Lord Daiman, who imagines himself the creator of the universe; Lord Odion, who intends to be its destroyer; the curious siblings Quillan and Dromika; the enigmatic Arkadia. So many warring Sith weaving a patchwork of brutality -- with only Kerra Holt to defend the innocents caught underfoot.

Sensing a sinister pattern in the chaos, Kerra embarks on a journey that will take her into fierce battles against even fiercer enemies. With one against so many, her only chance of success lies with forging alliances among those who serve her enemies -- including a mysterious Sith spy and a clever mercenary general. But will they be her adversaries or her salvation?

Star Wars: Knight Errant is at least trying something a little different. It’s tying in with a comic series – and with the exception of when a video game has been involved – that’s the first time the Star Wars novels and comics have directly interacted, before. Also, Holt goes in like James Bond, with lots of sneaking and prying at the start, followed by some massive explosions at the end. We’ve not really had a character who works that way before, again, that’s something new.

Unfortunately, Star Wars: Knight Errant is not the success that it should have been. For starters, the book is not wholly independent from the comic. All through I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was really missing out for not having read the preceding comic series. If the publishers are hoping to get the book readers into the comics and vice-versa, this alienating 50% of the audience from the start really isn’t the best way to go about it.

What’s more, none of the characters are especially engaging. Well, Kerra’s all right, but the rest of them are flat, pointless archetypes, and all of the Sith Lords seem to be doing loony-for-the-sake-of-loony.

The final nail in the coffin for this one is that Miller (coming from a comics background) sucks at descriptive writing. Sure, his action scenes are great, but characters are poorly described (if at all), and the locations all feel like you’re looking at them through a cataract. This is frankly, a wasted opportunity, and one for the Star Wars completists only.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Explosions, fighting, lightsabres, Force Lightning, deep-space combat, and other Star Wars related awesomeness.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A rather lacklustre offering, considering the expectations on the title. Miller writes action scenes well, but his descriptive writing leaves much to be desired. Expected, perhaps, but not excusable. 3/10

The Last Dragonslayer
Jasper Fforde
Hodder & Stoughton

Available Now - £12.00 (Hardback)
Review by Charlotte Barnes

Get this in the E14 Store for £6.60

In the good old days, magic was powerful, unregulated by government, and even the largest spell could be woven without filling in magic release form B1-7g. Then the magic started fading away. Fifteen-year-old Jennifer Strange runs Kazam, an employment agency for soothsayers and sorcerers. But work is drying up. Drain cleaner is cheaper than a spell, and even magic carpets are reduced to pizza delivery. So it's a surprise when the visions start. Not only do they predict the death of the Last Dragon at the hands of a dragonslayer, they also point to Jennifer, and say something is coming. Big Magic ...

This is a really enjoyable children’s novel, from start to finish it had me captivated and wanting to read more. As an almost-twenty-six year old adult (when did I get so old and how can I make it stop?) it had me giggling like a school child and I am not ashamed to say so! This is an incredibly funny and cleverly written novel that transcends to all ages, if you like comedy and fantasy you will like this book.

Based in what seems like the west country, FForde has this fantastic way of making you believe that (similarly to what Roald Dahl did in his novels) the silly is perfectly rational. Surely couriering someone a carpet makes total sense and a biscuit tin that only has two biscuits in it at any one time due to the strain of magic resources’ it would need to keep it full is just practical?

The characters are so beautifully written that even as magicians and conjurers the characters only ever seem as eccentric, like the mad auntie that everyone has in the family (mine is called Auntie Jo). Jennifer’s character is so fantastically level headed when faced with a house full of mad people that you can’t help but love her more.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Dragon slaying action and a really cute yet vicious looking pet...watch out for those Quark beasts!
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A fantastically written children’s novel that like Skullduggery Pleasant and the Harry Potter series translates to adults. I defy you not to laugh and be swept away by this fantastic book. 8/10

The Art of Zombie Warfare
ZEO - A Zombie's Guide to Getting A(head)in Business
Scott Kenemore
Constable and Robinson

Available Now - £7.99 each (Paperback)
Review by Blake Harmer

Get these in the E14 Store for £5.59 each

Before I begin, I would just like to say that I know that zombies and comedy work from the likes of films such as Zombieland, Re-Animator, Shaun of the Dead, Army of Darkness and Braindead, and there should be no reason why these shouldn’t be able to work in book form either. That is why when I came across these two books; I actually wanted to like them. Especially ZEO as it looked like it could have been pretty clever albeit a light read. However, the vital difference that author Scott Kenemore seems to have missed is that in all of these films, the zombies aren’t the cause of the humour: its reactions of the survivors and how they deal with the zombies.

Yes, the main problem with both ZEO and The Art of Zombie Warfare is that they are a one-note joke (that isn’t actually very funny), and Kenemore attempts to stretch it over the entirety of both books. In the case of ZEO, this joke is basically taking tips on business success, and twisting them so that the zombies are the perfect role models. Whilst this is done quite cleverly in some places, a lot of the time it feels as if Kenemore is trying too hard to make the joke fit, or trying to work around the true meaning of it to work in a lame “brraaaaiiiinnnnss!!!” gag (the term "gag" being used pretty loosely here).

Whilst applying zombies to the world of business is a nice thought and covers for part of ZEO’s failings, when it comes to The Art of Zombie Warfare, the flaws are practically unforgivable. This is mainly in part to the book's subject matter, which is acting like a tactical combat matter using the strategies of zombies to win wars. This mostly doesn’t work because of the simple fact that zombies are killing machines by nature. The book doesn’t feel as clever as its counterpart in attempting to fit in what they do in terms of warfare as they already do it, and it just feels way too easy.

All of these short comings would be completely forgivable if any of it was funny, but sadly this just isn’t the case, with most jokes degenerating to poor zombie eating brains jokes that not even a three year old would find funny. The accompanying illustrations can sometimes raise the odd smile, but there just isn’t enough here to entertain even the most die-hard of zombie fans.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Quite a few references and a few comically gory pictures, but nothing over the top.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: A few swear words, but nothing really strong. What I was shouting at the books was probably a lot stronger.
Summary: Two pretty unfunny books that try way too hard to find the humour in the undead. Avoid like you would the brainless cadavers. ZEO4/10, The Art of Zombie Warfare - 3/10

Right Hand Magic
Nancy A. Collins

Available Now - £5.99 (Paperback)
Review by Charlotte Barnes

Get this in the E14 Store for £4.79

Like most Manhattanites, aspiring artist Tate can't resist a good rental deal - even if it's in the city's strangest neighbourhood, Golgotham, where for centuries werewolves, centaurs and countless other creatures have roamed the streets. Her new landlord is a sorcerer named Hexe, who is determined to build his reputation without using dark, left-hand magic. As Tate is drawn into Hexe's fascinating world, they both find that the right hand does not always know what the left hand is doing - and avoiding darkness is no easy trick.

I was expecting this novel to be a horrendous piece of paranormal romance trash, which only goes to prove the “do not judge a book by its cover” saying. I found this book really refreshing, well developed and a genuinely interesting read. Sure it is not the highest quality of writing, but the story is for once not the generic vampire meets vampire/mage/warewolf/etc. and falls in love but can’t be together because they are from different worlds!

The originality of the story is something that strikes me the most. Rather than there being secret worlds between magic users and mortals there is simply a divide between locations. The humans unsurprisingly are bigoted towards what they do not understand, a kind of social comment as it were. Tate and Hexe’s characters are really compelling and the way Collins wites about the surroundings leaves you wishing you could immerse yourself into Golgotham.

The only downside to this novel is the cover art, it looks so pants it looks comfortable on the self in The Works. I am sure that there was not a lot of money behind this book, but anything would have been better than this. This book deserves a little more than 99p shop quality cover art.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Animal baiting, an army of steel statues, some punching and shoving
Sex/Nudity: Snogging, petting and alluding to sex.
Swearing: None of note.
Summary: A really enjoyable read, a breath of fresh air from the standard paranormal crap I normally have to read. 7/10


Experience a masterpiece of World Cinema with incredible hyper-realistic full-scale battle sequences to rival The Pacific and Saving Private Ryan.

On August 11th, 1950, 71 boy soldiers of the South Korean army singlehandedly held back the elite North Korean 766 Commando Brigade for a full 11 hours. Most were still in their school uniforms and had only fired a single bullet in training! Their astonishing bravery under fire enabled allied forces to hold a strategic bridgehead at the Nakdong River and gain a tactical advantage that would help turn the tide of the entire war. Nothing less than the freedom of their nation was at stake.

Their ingenuity, tenacity and brotherhood helped them to achieve the impossible. This is their remarkable true story... Now, discover one of the greatest events in modern military history and re-live the day when courage came of age.

Thanks to our friends at Cine-Asia, we've got two copies of 71 - Into the Fire 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 15th March, making sure to put "71 - Into the Fire" as the subject. The first two entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "71 - Into the Fire" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

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

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