Sunday 31 July 2011

Dickass DM

Remember good, old-fashioned gamebooks? They promised all the fun of a role-playing game, with none of the social interaction - what more could a teenage boy desire? The thing is, that while the gamebook became a great gaming experience in its own right, the only RPG it could possibly have simulated was one being GM'd by Satan himself. 90% of decisions led to certain death, and combat was often fatal.

Satan wasn't available, so Brad will be GMing Rob through an RPG based on the classic Ian Livingstone gamebook Island of the Lizard King. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Brag Slytherin.

Catch up with previous Dickass DM installments here!
Rob: Then how do I know it did?
Brad: It silently wraps itself around your neck and starts to squeeze. You awaken, choking, and try to grasp your sword which is lying by your feet. You stretch out and your fingertips just manage to reach your sword.
Rob: Wa-hey!
Brad: By now you cannot breathe and your face is crimson with the veins bulging in your neck. You deperately hack at the vine until you cut through it and roll away out of its lethal range. You cough and rub your neck and watch the hideous vine drip purple sap.
Rob: I roll a bit further just to make sure!
Brad: Although you are lucky to have escaped the clutches of the carnivorous tree, you have not escaped injury.
Rob: Damn.
Brad: Although still weary, you decide that it is better to keep on the move. As you push your way slowly through the undergrowth, the hairs on the back of your neck start to prickle and you feel that you are being watched. You stand back, sword ready, watching the leaves for any sign of movement. Then three dark-skinned men stop into view, each wearing only a crude loin-cloth.
Rob: I tackle the nearest one!
Brad: They are armed with stone clubs and long spears, but you are more alarmed to see that each wears a belt of shrunken human heads.

Brag: Where did you meet those midgets?! And what did they say that was that offensive?!
Brad: The Headhunters start to argue about who should kill you and earn the right to wear your head on his belt. Finally one steps forward!
You reject his submission for Cracked on the grounds that it's not in the form of a list.
Brag: Have you never written online?!
You criticise his choice of console.
Brag: A 3DO? Really?
You fuck him.
Quite hard.
Brag: Weren't expecting that, were you? Be thankful it wasn't really hard!
First Headhunter is defeated.
The Second Headhunter approaches.
You use his last piece of bogpaper and don't replace the roll.
You beat him at SceneIt.
You beat him to death with a copy of SceneIt.
Second Headhunter is defeated.
Third Headhunter approaches.
You shoot him dead with a continuity error disguised as a .357 Magnum.
Third Headhunter is defeated.

Brad: The Headhunters have no items of equipment on them, but they have a hide bag containing bananas and coconuts. You save your own provisions and eat the Headhunter's food. You wonder if their village is nearby, and decide to climb a tree to get a better view. From the top you see smoke rising not far away in the south-west; perhaps from a village.
Brag: Given my fight with a vine, I anticipate this climb will go well.
Brad: Directly west, you see the trees gradually thin out, and away in the far north-west, you see the daunting shape of the volcano. You climb down from the tree and plan which way to head.
Rob: Keep going West. Sounds like some fun times exist over there!
Brad: As you hack your way through the thick undergrowth you hear the distant sound of drums coming from where you saw the smoke rising.
Brag: Rush are playing? Awesome!
Rob: Head south-west towards it!
Brad: The beating of the drums grows louder as you scramble through the undergrowth towards them. You also hear chanting voices and deep humming. You crawl forward as quietly as you can until you reach the edge of a small clearing. There are several bamboo huts in a circle around the edge of the clearing. In the centre of the clearing you see twelve Headhunters standing around a half-naked man tied to a post.
Rob: Only half naked? Keep moving.
Brad: One of the Headhunters, who is wearing a face-mask and head-dress, steps forward, his arms raised in the air. The drums instantly stop beating. Then a woman hands him a boneknife - the Headhunters are about to gain a new trophy.
Rob: I throw my...
Brad: There are too many of them for you to fight at once, and you feel helpless.
Rob: ...voice?
Brad: There is only one plan you can think of to distract the Headhunters, but is is dangerous.
Rob: Yeah! I take a burning branch from the fire in front of me and set some of the huts on fire! Arson FTW!

NOTE: E14 does not condone arson.
Brad: You crawl towards the fire, hoping that the Headhunters will be too engrossed in their ritual to notice you. Grabbing one of the burning brushes, you dash behind one of the huts and set it alight. Then you run to the next hut and set it on fire as well. The huts are soon blazing away - possibly with babies inside - and you watch from behind the next hut as the Headhunters run around the clearing, shouting instructions to each other in total confusion. The man tied to the post is temporarily left unguarded, and you run to him to set him free.
Rob: This had better work.
Brad: With one swipe of your sword, you cut through the vines holding him to the post, and run off towards the jungle, yelling at the man to follow. As you are running, one of the Headhunters sees you and throws his spear at you.
Rob: Why did I need to yell? Presumably he was right next to me.
Brad: The spear flies through the air, striking you in the shoulder and sending you crashing to the ground. You see the man that you rescued come to your side and pull the spear from your shoulder. He picks you up and helps you run for cover inside one of the huts, as the other Headhunters turn to attack you.
Brag: Wait a minute...
Brad: Inside the hut, the rescued man arms himself with a spear and a stone-headed club. His gratitude shows in a smile and suddnely he runs out of the hut, screaming at the top of his voice. You watch as he charges into a group of advancing Headhunters, stabbing and hacking at them in a mad frenzy.
Brag: That's a surefire way to get himself killed.
Brad: Before he finally succumbs to their blows, he manages to slay three of them. You stagger out of the hut to fight the remaining three Headhunters, but only one, the Chief, steps forward to fight; the others turn and flee.

He has a lengthy conversation with you about Mexican wrestlers, which distracts you from what you're supposed to be doing.
You claim he can't be Chief because he's not being carried around on a shield.
Brag: Also, where are your robes?
You ponder the lack of Lizards on the island...
You frape him.
"Chief Headhunter is really looking forward to the next season of Glee"
He removes your appendix.
Brag: I can get by with one!
You cut off his head.
Rob: That'll do it.
Brad: You pick up the chief's spear and run back into the jungle the way you came. You are soon well away from the village and slow down to a walk.
I'm going to come out and say it: that was basically a war crime, dude.
Rob: I did kill a lot of people. Deserved though. I've accumulated a human shield.
Oh wait.
He's dead.
That was fun.
Brad: You basically walked into an indigenous culture, disturbed their religious rites by burning their village to the ground - presumably women and children, too. Then you freed a prisoner of theirs - and you don't know what the story is there. He could well have raped his way through the local junior school and half of Toys R Us for all you know. You just let him go, watched him murder a fuckton of people and then killed the elder tribesman.
Well done. I never thought I'd say this, but you've actually topped that "tasering the fuck out of a nine year old" thing.
Rob: ...Thank you?
Brad: Slowly you hack your way through the dense jungle, not really certain of the direction in which you are heading. Later, you catch a brief glimpse of the sun through the trees, enough to orientate yourself, and turn to head west. Pressing on further west, you notice that the ground is becoming wetter and softer. Soon you are ankle-deep in water.
The trees thin out and you find yourself wading through thick black mire.
Rob: Lucky I'm tall...
Brad: The marshland stretches out in front of you as far as you can see. Suddenly you hear the sound of squelching behind you and are surprised to see a strange creature run past you. It is small with green reptilian scales.
Brag: Lizard Lad?!
Words: Brad Harmer & Robert Wade
You can become Brad's "friend" on Facebook, or you can "follow" him on Twitter. Depends how creepy you want to sound really.
This is intended as a loving tribute to Ian Livingstone, the Fighting Fantasy series, Island of the Lizard King, and all other gamebooks of yesteryear.

Saturday 30 July 2011

DVD Reviews

CSI: Miami – Season Eight
Starring: David Caruso, Emily Procter, Agam Rodriguez
Momentum Pictures Home Entertainment
Available now (DVD)
Review by Rob Wade

Following the ferocious gun battle in the season seven finale, the eighth season of CSI: Miami opens with CSI Delko fighting for his life once again. Meanwhile a deadly serial killer taunts the team by leaving them cryptic hints, the longer it takes to decipher these fiendish puzzles the higher the death toll rises. This is the ongoing story of the Miami Dade police department and their mission to control a city ablaze with crime, chaos and violence.|

CSI: Miami for me has always been the weakest of the franchise variants. For my money, the cast just has never resonated as strongly as the other shows’ casts. Indeed, Horatio Caine, most notable for his timely removal and application of sunglasses at key dialogue points, is more iconic for the places where he doesn’t speak than the places where he actually recounts lines. Those lines, too, are pretty cheesy, way in excess of what Grissom or Mac Taylor are capable of. It’s a relief, therefore, to watch a season of the show which seems less steeped in the cheesiness.

Now, granted, the first episode sees a flashback to when CSI Delko joined the team, which sees the origin of the sunglasses associated with Horatio Caine, as well as seeding a future returning member of the team, and understandably the episode is a little sappy. However, once the first part of that storyline is resolved (as the ramifications of the episode have effects ongoing throughout the series), the series goes back to having dark subject matter.

Now, the only issue here is that for fans who’ve maybe watched some of the other series but never delved into Miami, this doesn’t represent the best jumping-in point. Now, it may sound strange to say that, considering that this is series 8, but ultimately the cliffhanger ending of the previous series makes a *huge* difference to the flow of this series, and as a result the viewer feels disjointed if they jump in at the beginning of this series. Make no mistake, however; this is a fine collection of episodes, with some really clever premises by a strong writing team.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Guns, murders and so on. Surprising that a CSI show should contain such things, eh?
Sex/Nudity: CSI isn’t really known for it unless the detail is forensic, and you don’t usually see anything. This is no exception.
Swearing: Again, as it’s a particularly popular show, “Son of a bitch” is about as hard as it gets.
Summary: A strong series, maybe not one to jump into for the newbies though. 8/10

The Silent House
Starring: Florencia Colucci, Abel Tripaldi, Gustavo Alonso
Director: Gustavo Hernández
Studio Canal/Optimum Home Entertainment
Available from 01/08/2011
Review by Blake Harmer

With the idea of the film being shot in one continuous take (or creating the appearance of it), The Silent House follows Laura and her father Wilson, as they attempt to do up a house so it can be resold. However, after settling down for the night in the house so work can begin in the morning, Laura keeps hearing a noise upstairs which keeps getting louder and louder. It is only when Wilson goes upstairs to investigate do they realise there is more to this house than meets the eye…

As is to be expected with this undertaking, the camera work on show here is excellent. From showing you just enough to keep the tension rising, but not enough so as to give away the big scares, there is seldom a moment you’re not feeling tense. The acting and special effects are also great considering that this is quite a low budget film.

However, technical marvels aside, The Silent House does suffer with storytelling issues and leaves a lot of backstory out as well, leaving a lot of scenes to the viewer’s own imagination. Also, a lot of the jumpy moments aren’t very original to the horror genre. Examples of this include children’s music and toys to add to the tension and try to freak the viewer out. Another example of this is the use of a scary looking little girl, a horror cliché that practically every Japanese horror film is guilty of. There are also a couple of stupid moments in the film that makes you doubt the integrity of the film before it is explained later. Without spoiling the plot, the characters seem to act irrationally, but in such a way that it was too much even considering that most horror characters have a pretty low intelligence.

That said though, there are still some good scares and tense moments, so this is still worth a watch, on the proviso you are in it more for the technical brilliance of how it is pulled off over its other obvious shortcomings.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: There is a fair amount of blood and corpses and lots of violence is implied but nothing is truly shown as it is done too quickly.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: A few, and not very strong at that.
Summary: A tense and jumpy horror movie that is masterfully shot on its low budget. Sure, it may not have the most original plot or scares, but if you want to experience a horror film in a new way with some great camerawork, then this is definitely worthy of a watch. 7/10

Cowboys and Zombies
Starring: David A. Lockhart, Camille Montgomery & Rick Mora
Director: Rene Perez
Left Films
Available from 01/08/2011 (DVD)
Review by Blake Harmer

Set in 1849, a bounty hunter on his way back from capturing an Indian alive for the bounty, finds that the town has become overrun with zombies after a meteor that was discovered unleashes a deadly virus, and it is up to him, the Indian and a girl he originally uses as bait to capture the Indian, to try to survive and escape the infested area.

On paper, the premise of a zombie film set in the Wild West is a nice idea. However, when put into practice here, it just doesn’t work. To say this film was terrible is an understatement. The acting is atrocious, the dialogue is cringe-worthy and the plot is paper-thin. In fact, for the first half of the film you may as well have called the film “Cowboys”, as you don’t get an inkling of the walking dead until about the half way mark. The film also fails to be scary on any level throughout or really tries to engage with the audience, which makes it hard for the viewer to maintain any interest in it.

If there is anything that can be said for Cowboys and Zombies, it is that there is quite a lot of boobage in it (hence the E14 bonus point), and there is a scene involving a blind zombie that creates the film’s only scare, but even this scene was unoriginal and had been done better in other films such as The Descent.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
: Lots of shooting zombies, hacking zombies to death and zombies eating people, but the special effects are so bad that even the blood is computer generated and looks appalling.
Sex/Nudity: You get boobs every 10-15 minutes for the first half of the film, then nothing. You also do get a chase scene where a zombie is chasing a woman with her boobs out though.
Swearing: A few but not a lot by most horror movie standards.
Summary: Cowboys and Zombies is a good idea executed poorly, as what could be a good premise for an action/horror film is neither scary or has action scenes that are particularly thrilling to watch. Avoid like an actual zombie infestation. 2/10

Friday 29 July 2011

E14 Exchange

(Editor’s note – this conversation took place on the day the E14 podcast went up).
Brad: Your review is excellent today.
Rob : Cheers man.
Rob : Why do you like it so much? Or are you worried I'd cry without some praise today?
Brad: Informative and funny - exactly what our reviews should be. Sometimes we're a little too serious with our reviews, IMO, myself included.
Rob : Ahhh ok.
Brad: And I was worried you were going to cry.

Brad: There's a Mockbuster coming out called...
Brad: ...Ready for this?
Rob : Go on.
Brad: Chop Kick Panda.
Rob : ...What?
Brad: See what they did there?
Rob : Got paid money for *literally* nothing?

Brad: They call me the workin' man!
Rob : Clearly *they* don't actually see you at work…

Rob : Incidentally, would you pronounce Steine sty-nuh or steen?
Brad: Sty-nuh
Rob : I'm not going mad then.
Rob : The entirety of Brighton is, pronouncing it Old Steen…
Brad: It's obviously of Germanic origin. And that would be sty-nuh.
Rob : That's my argument.
Brad: If they're going to be that retarded, you may have to upgrade 'argument' into 'kung-fu fight'.
Rob : Or ‘Chop Kick Fight’.

Rob : Man, I’m glad not to do the Tunbridge Wells journey anymore.
Brad: That rough?
Rob : Nah, just time-consuming. A short bus journey is infinitely preferable. That's 'short bus journey', not 'shortbus journey', just to clarify.

Rob : Why did Cthulhu cross the road?
Brad: I don't know. Why did Cthulhu cross the road?
Rob : I don't know either, it's driving me crazy.

Rob : Great news about Freddy Kruger being a downloadable character in Mortal Kombat, I was just playing the other day and thinking 'Why can't I play as a child molestor?'

Brad: You all right, mate?
Rob : Yeah, just hating Apple's faces.
Fucking iPod syncing is so much more difficult than it needs to be.
Brad: Yup.
Rob : Found the option now, it should be fine.
Brad: I always find it takes two of three attempts to plug the fucking things in and for iTunes to recognise them. I have no idea how such a shittily programmed product line/OS has become so popular.
Rob : Perceived prestige? They like two things: Design and Control. Unfortunately, the popularity of the first means the frustration of the second for the end user. Or at least, the end user who isn't a cunt.

Rob : Think Duke Nukem Forever is worth £1.80 of my own money?
Brad: I would pay £1.80 to never have to play a Duke Nukem game ever again. It's a matter of perspective.
Rob : Your answer brings up a good point. What the fuck am I asking *you* for?

Rob : Apparently I now have a Facebook email account. What the fuck just happened?
Brad: What?
Rob : Apparently your FB messages acct can now be assigned an email address.
Brad: I'm...good?
Rob : ...That's nice...

To celebrate the 1st August UK DVD and Blu-ray release of Hobo With A Shotgun starring the legendary Rutger Hauer we have extremely limited edition t-shirts to give away! Specially created and not available to buy we have three t-shirts to give away but before we tell you how you can win them please do stop by the official FanHub website for the film - - click on ‘Win!’ and there you'll get the chance to win yourself drawn into the Hobo With a Shotgun poster!

Thanks to our friends at Cult Labs, we've got three copies of these highly limited edition Hobo With A Shotgun t-shirts to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Fruday 5th August, making sure to put "Hobo Shotgun" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free t-shirt!

Don't forget to put "Hobo Shotgun" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Hobo With A Shotgun is out on Blu-ray and DVD on August 1, courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

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

Thursday 28 July 2011

Gaming Reviews

Captain America: Super Soldier
Available Now - (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii (Version Tested))
Review by Blake Harmer

I will admit that with the majority of movie and superhero tie-ins being rubbish, I wasn’t holding out much hope for this, seeing as this falls into both categories. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find this was "average"...

Yes that’s right, unfortunately, this was the most praise I could muster for this game. Set during World War II, you play Captain America as you storm a castle to stop new prototype weapons being created by the Red Skull’s army by punching and throwing your shield at a wide arrange of bad guys.

The best thing that could be said for this goes down to the combat, there are some basic levelling up so you unlock more abilities as you progress, and the combat allows you to fight multiple foes and feels quite satisfying as you kick everyone in without even being touched. Imagine a poor man’s Arkham Asylum without any depth and you’d be pretty much there. Aside from this, the only other faint praise that could be said is that the puzzling and platforming elements are functional if basic, and the voice acting is spot on.

Had this have been all there is to the game, then I might have recommended it as a budget title as it never really offers any new ideas to challenge the big AAA titles such as Arkham Asylum or God of War, nor does it offer as much excitement. However, the game suffers from terrible graphics and a lazy level design, which has most of the game making you run through narrow corridors. There is also a frustrating camera that can obscure the action when it becomes too busy, which means you can be shot from off screen whilst your busy punching a goon in the face leaving you unable to deflect the bullets with your shield. Also, the game's focus mode, which slows down time and allows Captain America to target multiple badguys/switches with a shield throw, is almost broken, as sometimes the shield doesn’t hit and passes through the object inexplicably. Chuck in the fact that the camera also makes it difficult to aim upwards at higher targets and it can make you scream with frustration.

So, for all the enjoyment that can be gathered from Captain America: Super Soldier, there is a horrible flaw waiting to back it up, which leaves the whole experience just feeling...average.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Awful, like being stabbed repeatedly in the eyes with a rusty pitchfork.
Sound/Music: The voicework is spot on, with Chris Evans doing the voicework for Captain America. The music is nothing really to write home about though.
Gameplay: Your typical action game with basic button bashing combat, simple platforming and some basic puzzlework. The level design is pretty lazy though.
Lasting Appeal: Pretty short by modern standards, as it could be completed in about six hours on first playthrough, and even then you probably would have found or unlocked most of what it has to offer.
Summary: A typical action game that does nothing innovative apart from being horrifyingly ugly whilst offering up some thrills done better by many other games, and any big thrills it does dish out are countered by the game’s numerous flaws. 5/10


After 10 years in prison, Driver (Dwayne Johnson) has focused on one thing - hunting down the people responsible for brutally murdering his brother. Now a free man with a terrifying purpose, he sets out to find and kill all those on his list. But on his heals are two men who will do anything to stop him - a veteran cop (Billy Bob Thornton) and a hitman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) who finds his match in this worthy opponent. Now, the hunter is also the hunted.

Thanks to our friends at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, we've got three copies of Faster to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Thursday 4th August, making sure to put "Faster" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

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

Faster is out on Blu-ray and DVD on August 1, courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

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

Wednesday 27 July 2011

So You've Murdered Your Girlfriend...

First of all, relax. We’ve all been there before. Little things pile up, you say something in the heat of the moment, she snaps something back, things are said in anger, and before you know it you’re standing in the kitchen clutching a blood stained meat-tenderiser while your significant other lays spasming on the floor, the stench of her urine and fecal matter not exactly easing the tension. Maybe you’re driving home from a party where she’s been trying to pick a fight all night, you reach down into the door compartment and – in a moment of anger you know even then that you’re going to regret – jam a screwdriver into her eye. There’s a lot of screaming, and lot crying and – and this is part you’re probably going to need help with – a lot of cleaning up to do.

The first thing to do is, as always, not to panic. We’ve all got at least one person in our past that we’ve ended up deadering, and we’ve all had to deal with the aftermath in a mature and respectable way. The first thing to do, is to take stock of your surroundings.

If you’re camping, on a road trip, or other rural location, then burying the body in a shallow grave is usually a good place to start. The damp soil, detrivores and already decaying matter that makes up a large part of the soil should help to break down any evidence in just a few short weeks. Do make sure you pull out all of her teeth and remove the hands for burial in a separate location, though. Sure it’s extra work now, but it can delay the identification of a body for quite some time. Possibly indefinitely!

Are you by a lake, river, ocean or other body of water? If so, then there’s a very easy and effective method of corpse disposal that will cost you little more than a trip to B&Q. All you need is chicken wire. Before tying your ex-girlfriend to a large stone and dropping her in, why not first wrap the body in the chicken wire? Using this method, the chicken wire contains sufficiently large gaps to allow the fish and other creatures to feed on her festering corpse, but prevents any chunks from flaking off and drifting to the surface, causing undue attention.

Of course, you may be at home when the unfortunate incident occurs. Hopefully you have been fortunate enough to do away with the obnoxious split-arse in the kitchen or bathroom, where the linoleum floor will make tidying up afterwards considerably easier. Of course, you may have lucked out and only have wooden or laminate flooring – again, this makes for considerably easier cleaning.

Don’t be too disheartened if it’s all over the carpet, though. Getting bloodstains out of a carpet or soft furnishing is pretty easy. First, blot the stain with an absorbent cloth, doing your best not to spread it. Place small amount of a mild detergent on the stain and work it inward with a brush. Blot again with a clean white cloth.

Place a small amount of ammonia (use her piss from earlier if necessary) and let it sit for a few minutes to break down the stain. Spit works, also. Blot again with a dry, clean, white cloth, rinse with clean water. Blot a final time, and the stain should be gone.

So, that’s the blood taken care of. There now remains the bulk of the problem.

In the olden days, it used to be a case of lugging the corpse down to the end of the garden in the middle of the night, followed by hours of digging (possibly in the torrential rain), and the end result was always little dissatisfying. There’d be a massive mound of disturbed earth, and it would only take a curious fox or some other night visitor before you’d have half a leg sticking out.

Thankfully, these days, there are much easier ways to get rid of the corpse of your ex-girlfriend. The easiest way would be to use sulphuric acid in at least an 80% concentration. This will dissolve most parts of the body, leaving some of the bones, which can be disposed on in a river or at the end of the garden in the usual way.

A considerably harder but much more fun way of melting a corpse away is through the use of thermite. What’s more, thermite is mind-bogglingly easy to make. Head down to your local art shop and pick up some aluminium powder and some powdered iron oxide – if asked say that you’re using it for mixing paints. You can also pick up some play-doh or Fimo if you intend to mould into into a PE, but that won’t really be necessary. On your way back find somewhere that sells fireworks and pick up some hand-held sparklers.

Make the thermite by mixing eight grams of iron oxide to every three grams of aluminium. Mix as thoroughly as you can. Visually, it should look like a 50/50 mix.

Thermite can reach temperatures of as high as 2,500°C, but it does have a very high ignition temperature, which is where the sparkler comes in. Burning magnesium will give you the ignition point you need! So simply cover the loud mouthed, nagging bint in your rust and aluminium compound, spark up a Cuban and burn your troubles away.

Have you got a better way of disposing of a corpse? Why not tell us in the comments?

Words: Brad Harmer
You can become Brad's "friend" on Facebook, or you can "follow" him on Twitter. Depends how creepy you want to sound really.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Book Reviews

Warhammer 40,000: The Madness Within
Steve Lyons
Black Library

Available from Tuesday 2nd August - £8.50 (MP3 Download) & £10.00 (CD)
Review by Blake Harmer

When a daemon comes through the warp and destroys their battle brothers, Sergeant Estabann and Brother Cordoba of The Crimson Fists Space Marines must rely on a Librarian on the edge of sanity - and who possibly brought the daemon through in the first place. However, if they are to save the chapel so that it can become a new Crimson Fist training ground, they must destroy the daemon before it kills more. But is the greatest threat the daemon, or the limitless power in a psyker’s mind?

As with all Black Library audio books, the production values on display here are superb, from bolter fire, to daemonic howls to the Librarian’s spells, everything sounds right and accompanies the superb narration and voice acting to create the perfect atmosphere for the story. The story is also particularly strong, with a nice plot twist and good pacing to help build up the tension as the Space Marines hunt down the daemon.

If there is anything bad to say about The Madness Within, it is that by focusing purely on its target audience, which is obviously fans of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, there is very little appeal for other fans of sci-fi or fantasy who are unaware of what a Librarian or a Space Marine is, as the story assumes you already know this from the beginning. But aside from that, this is a nice well-contained short story that 40k fans will thoroughly enjoy from start to finish.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Lots of violence, including a decapitation and lots of gun fire and psychic powers.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None, although lots of angry words are said, the worst you get is "mutant".
Summary: An enjoyable and well-balanced short story with great pacing, and a good mix of action and tension building. Highly recommended if you love your 40k stories, but there isn’t much here if you don’t know your bolters from your chainswords. 8/10


It's 1849, and an outlaw, wanted in the old west's Jamestown, gets more than he bargained for, when he finds the town over-run by zombies - victims of a virus unleashed by a meteor found in the gold rush. Cowboys and native Indians unite to fight the undead horde, as guns blaze and mutants growl in this showdown for survival in the weird wild west.

Thanks to our friends at Left Films, we've got three copies of Cowboys & Zombies to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Tuesday 2nd August, making sure to put "Cowboys & Zombies" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "Cowboys & Zombies" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Cowboys & Zombies is available from Monday 1st August, courtesy of Left Films.

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

Sunday 24 July 2011

Dickass DM

Remember good, old-fashioned gamebooks? They promised all the fun of a role-playing game, with none of the social interaction - what more could a teenage boy desire? The thing is, that while the gamebook became a great gaming experience in its own right, the only RPG it could possibly have simulated was one being GM'd by Satan himself. 90% of decisions led to certain death, and combat was often fatal.

Satan wasn't available, so Brad will be GMing Rob through an RPG based on the classic Ian Livingstone gamebook Island of the Lizard King. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Brag Slytherin.

Catch up with previous Dickass DM installments here!
Brad: As the hours drift by, you talk and laugh, trying to ignore the dangers ahead. Mungo Redshirt is always one to tell a tale and he is now telling you about his father and how he used to work in a travelling circus.
Mungo Redshirt: He was a big man, big as a mountain. And he would do just about anything for a paying crowd.
Brag: Anything...?
Mungo Redshirt: Wrestle trolls, have elephants stand on him, even let a Killer Bee sting him!
Brag: Oh. That's not what I was thinking of.
Mungo Redshirt: He was a tough old customer, but he finally met his match in the north. The circus was in Fang as one of the attractions during the festivities surrounding the Trial of Champions, and my father decided on a whim to enter. He walked into Deathtrap Dungeon and, alas, was never seen again. He was really too old for such an ordeal, although there was no telling him that.
Brag: I have literally no idea what that is.
Brag: ...What?

Brad: Just as Mungo Redshirt is about to tell you his next tale, he jumps and and shouts:
Mungo Redshirt: Land ahoy!
Brag: Why is ahoy in the air?
Brad: You look to where he is pointing and see Fire Island in the distance.
Rob: Is there a flame to mark the island?
Brad: The island sits on the sea like a green cushion, with a jagged mountain protuding from it. Smoke gently curls up from its top: a volcano's fuming anger waiting to explode.
Rob: Is it soggy around the base? Like a cushion would be in the sea? Is there any actual fire?
Brad: Mungo Redshirt steers the boat towards a small inlet at the eastern tip of the island, hoping that it will remain concealed between the high rocks.
Rob: I return to my original question: Is there any actual fire?
Mungo Redshirt: *stares* No. No fire.
Brag: Pictures of fire?
Mungo Redshirt: *stares*
Brag: Dhalsim from Street Fighter II holding a blowtorch?
Mungo Redshirt: *stairs*
Brag: ...What did you just do with your eyes?
Brad: You both put on your backpacks and clamber out of the boat to begin your quest to find King Mc'spnd'lah. You could scramble round the rocks to the beach in the cove to your left, or clamber over the rocks on the other side of the inlet to the beach in the cove to your right.
Rob: Cove to the left. Cove to the right. Electric slide! Left.

Mungo Redshirt: *stares*
Brag: Oh that's right, we wouldn't have electricity...Thanks for pointing out that inconsistency with your vacant look.
Brad: It does not take you long to reach the beach, which is small and covered with golden sand. A few rocks jut into the sea, and at the far end of the beach you see a tiny hut made of white stone. The roof has collapsed and the hut looks deserted. There are some long tracks in the sand, criss-crossing the beach.
Rob: I walk acroos the beach to the hut. Seems pointless to go all this way and not visit the hut. Is it Pizza Hut?
Brad: You are about halfway across the beach when suddenly a large mound of sand by the sea's edge starts to rise into the air.
Rob: Well, this was a fun prologue...
Brad: Then you see six large spiny legs and a pair of pincers, and as the sand slides off its huge shell, your eyes widen at the daunting sight of the Giant Crab before you. It scuttles across the sand, picking up Mungo Redshirt with one of its pincers; Mungo cries out in pain, unable to free himself from its vice like grip.
Rob: It's a giant crab! I attack the underside! In the meantime, try and help Mungo!
Brad: You run at the Giant Crab with your sword drawn. It drops Mungo into the sand in order to attack you with both pincers.
Running Combat:

Rob: Oh, I do have a sword, I forgot about that. Am I automatically wearing my armour?
Brad: Yes.
You exchange blows with the crab.
King Mc'Spnd'Lah: Wa-hey!

The crab criticies your crab fighting technique.
You hit its red area for MASSIVE DAMAGE!
Brag: Ha! Who said being controlled by a supreme being who plays video games is a sure-fire way to death?!
The Giant Crab points out that you used to have loads of supporting characters for this thing, but you just keep using the same ones again and again.
Brag: Oh, and your supporting characters are where exactly?...Burn!
You point out that it's a bottom feeder - and that's pretty gay.
You mock its ability to count in base ten.
The crab points out that - no, really - you had loads - but it all comes down to McSpindle and Redshirt all the time. What happened to Clank, Cripps, Wheezy and all that lot?
You eat a crabstick.
Crab is defeated.
Brag: Ha! That was probably your cousin.
Brad: Kneeling down beside the crushed body of Mungo Redshirt, you gently lift his head in your arms. His eyes open a little and he manages half a smile despite his agony.
Mungo Redshirt: [whispers] Well, old friend, it's the end of the road for me. A lot of use I've been. Make sure you get King Mc'spnd'lah for me, won't you.
Brag: You're kidding. We were hitting it off so well! This isn't fair!
Brad: You bury him on the beach near the cliff, marking his grave with his sword skewered into the sand. More determined than ever, you set off on your quest and walk to the stone hut. The abandoned hut is littered with broken furniture, smashed pottery and a few bits of torn clothing. You kick away a dirty rug and see the handle of a trapdoor in the floorboards.
Rob: Lift the trapdoor. I'm a fool, I realise, because I dare...Nevertheless, my decision stands.
Brad: You pull on the handle and lift up the trapdoor. In a small compartment you see a wooden box which you lift out and place on the floor. The lid is covered with candle-wax.
Rob: Open the box. There is no way this can end badly.
Brad: The lid lifts up easily and inside you find a corked earthenware jug and a note which reads:
Rob: "*stares*"?

Many years ago I came to Fire Island for peace and solitude. But since the Lizard Men have dwelt here, such an existence is no longer possible. I have now returned to the mainland. Many of the plants and bushes here are poisonous; a scratch can kill you. Drink my potion from this jug and you will come to no harm. I wish you well for whatever reason you are here.



Rob: Leave the hut.
Brad: Behind the hut you see a narrow goat-track leading up the side of the cliff. You wend your way up it and up the side of the cliff.
Rob: Wend?
Brad: You are quite exhausted by the time you reach the top. You take a swig of water from your flask and realise that water shortage could be a problem for you on this island.
Rob: Yeah, shame I'm not...surrounded by water.
Brad: Looking west you see the daunting sight of the sleeping volcano standing above the trees, but no sign of life - although you can certainly hear it; a cacophony of bird and insect noise.
Brag: Oi! Shut up!
Cacophony: Sorry!
Brad: With the light quickly fading, you decide to camp for the night behind some rocks. You do not sleep very well and are awake at first light, eager to set off. You decide to head directly west into the trees. The undergrowth between the trees is dense; plants with long or broad leaves, some with spiny tips, vines, creepers, fungi, roots and flowers of all sizes, shapes and colours fighting for light and space in the humid jungle thicket. You have to use your sword to cut your way through it, and it is a long and slow business.
Brag: God, it's humid...

Rob: Can I take the potion now, or do I have to wait for a window?
Brad: What potion?
Rob: The one I didn't take when I pulled it out at Pizza Hut.
Brad: No, I think it was then or never.
Rob: Sit down and rest at the base of a tree.
Brad: Hacking sucks, don't it? A sweet smell floats down from the upper foliage of the tree which makes you feel relaxed and drowsy. As your eyelids droop, you do not see a thick vine lower itself down from the branches above.
Words: Brad Harmer & Robert Wade
You can become Brad's "friend" on Facebook, or you can "follow" him on Twitter. Depends how creepy you want to sound really.
This is intended as a loving tribute to Ian Livingstone, the Fighting Fantasy series, Island of the Lizard King, and all other gamebooks of yesteryear.

Saturday 23 July 2011

DVD Reviews

Lake Mungo
Starring: David Pledger, Martin Sharpe, Rosie Traynor
Director: Joel Anderson
Second Sight Films

Available from Monday 25th July
Review by Brad Harmer

Sixteen-year-old Alice Palmer tragically drowns while swimming in the local dam. Her body is recovered, a verdict of accidental death returned, and she is laid to rest. In the days that follow her grieving family begins to experience a series of strange and inexplicable events. Profoundly unsettled they seek the help of psychic and parapsychologist, Ray Kemeny. In their search for answers they discover Alice had been living a disturbed life and hiding dark secrets. Something haunted their daughter and the terrifying truth awaits at Lake Mungo.

Ghost stories are exceptionally well suited to the documentary style, in my opinion. I always feel that if a ghost is presented in a standard way, then more often than not, it just ends up being another monster. When presented in a documentary fashion though – whilst there’s a chance it can always go tits up and you wind up with Paranormal Activity – when done well you can end up with something that’s genuinely chilling, and a little bit nervous that night.

There are plot twists a plenty in this, but they all feel natural and – once you look back – some you even kick yourself for not noticing before. The mystery progresses at a brilliant pace, and the ghost/haunting effects are brilliant.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: SPOILER [Highlight to Read] One scene depicting full-sex (no parts visible) END SPOILER
Swearing: None.
Summary: A highly entertaining and original ghost story, full of unexpected plot twists. Well worth hunting down, if ghost stories are your thing. 8/10

Evil Rising
Starring: Tommi Eronen, Viktor Klimenko, Ville Virtanen
Director: Antti-Jussi Annila
Matchbox Films

Available from Monday 25th July
Review by Brad Harmer

The year 1595 - a long and brutal war between Russia and Sweden is finally over. Brothers Knut and Erik - who are part of the commission marking the border between Finland and Russia - commit a terrible sin as they leave a young girl to die a horrible death. As the commission crosses the uncharted swamp the girl returns to haunt them, her face pouring with endless filth. Weary men find solace from the nameless village. Seeking forgiveness the brothers step in...

I get so fed up with lazy horror movies, sometimes. I hate that people are fucking the genre up with their lazy editing, bad lighting, abominable CGI (especially CGI blood – what is that about?), which is one of the reasons that I was so pleased to stumble upon Evil Rising. This is because Evil Rising gets what is important in a horror movie.

It’s one thing: horror.

It may seem obvious, but looking at the horror scene as it stands now, it apparently isn’t. Being horrifying actually comes way behind tits, heavy-metal soundtracks, CGI blood and an upbeat ending. Evil Rising, however, is grim, nasty, and it goes beyond being ‘tense’ or ‘scary’ and jumps the scale right into 'unnerving'. A slow burning plot leads into mystery and eventually horrifying climax. The direction and lighting is second to none, and the only real criticism I have of Evil Rising is that the quality of the acting is a little iffy at times; not enough to ruin it, but enough to stop it from being truly great.

If you’re looking for a horror movie that stands out from the crowd, then you could do a lot worse than this diamond in the rough.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Frequent, graphic and gory.
Sex/Nudity: Full male nudity.
Swearing: Some, strong.
Summary: An excellent supernatural horror movie that eschews ‘jumps’ in favour of genuine eeriness. 8/10

Thor: Tales of Asgard
Starring: Matthew Wolf, Christopher Britton, Jay Brazeau
Director: Sam Liu
Available now (DVD)
Review by Blake Harmer

Set in Asgard, this animated film centres around a younger Thor who wishes to prove himself as a man and a warrior, so, after sneaking out of the royal grounds with his brother Loki (who is still learning his mischievous magic) and sneaking on a boat of the warriors three (three boastful warriors who have never really been anywhere dangerous), they set on a quest to find the Legendary Lost Sword of Surtur. But little does Thor know is that this quest has perils so great that it could lead to the fall of Asgard itself.

There are some good action sequences to be enjoyed here, from fighting Frost Giants with a giant flaming sword to a bar room brawl to the climactic battle at the end. I also found some of the more comical moments to be enjoyable, and the characters are likeable and unique which means they interact well with each other throughout. One specific highlight is where Thor loses his sword during the bar room brawl and Loki passes him a mallet to use. After throwing it and taking out most of the bar, Thor doubts his own ability with a hammer and wonders if Loki had actually cast magic on it.

That said, the main problem with Tales of Asgard is that plot wise it is incredibly clichéd. From the problem to the plot twist to the resolution to the important lesson learnt, there have been countless other animated films that cover similar grounds, and sadly this does very little to try and differentiate itself from the crowd. In fact, if you were to change the characters names and have Odin as just a king, than this could just be a generic fantasy adventure.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Plenty of sword fights and explosions, think Ben 10 style violence and you’re pretty much there.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None, although Thor does refer to women as wenches when he gets angry with them.
Summary: An enjoyable fantasy adventure that will keep the kids entertained, even though it could easily have been told without being set in the Thor universe, and never separates itself apart from the hundreds of other animated films and shows out there. 6/10

Yu-Gi-Oh! – Bonds Beyond Time
Starring: Gregory Abbey, Matt Charles, Dan Green
Director: Kenichi Takeshita
Available from 25/07/2011 (DVD, Blu-Ray)
Review by Rob Wade

In the future, the world has taken a turn for the worse. Civilization is on the brink of extinction and all hope of a brighter tomorrow has been cloaked with dark uncertainty. One man, however, thinks he can do something about it. Paradox figures out a way to travel through time so that he can eliminate the scourge that he believes is responsible for causing his world to decay – the Duel Monsters card game! Paradox, determined to eradicate this perilous threat from the annals of time, begins rewriting the future by erasing the game – one card at a time. Standing in his way are three legendary duelists who will do whatever it takes to save what’s on the line – their friends, their family and the game they love. For the first time ever, Yugi, Jaden and Yusei will team together and battle with all their hearts in a duel that will decide the past, the present and the future!

As a fan of the card game in my younger days (slightly embarrassingly, not that much younger), I have watched and enjoyed the movies and the series in the past, so was optimistic to give this a go, particularly as this movie has been done to mark the 10th anniversary of the series as a whole. Imagine my trepidation, therefore, to realise that the entire presentation lasts an hour. Imagine my even more considerable dismay to find that the hour-long presentation contained a ten-minute montage detailing the successes of each of the three duellists across time. Let me repeat that. Of sixty minutes of footage, only fifty of it is new footage. When you consider that the movie got a limited 3D cinema release, it adds up to a financial butt-fucking for any parent unlucky enough to have a kid as a fan.

It’s a shame, as well, because the premise is really well done for the short time it is done. The animation, too, is really good for the series, with the CG bits on things like Yusei’s bike (incidentally, when did that series jump the shark and start taking after Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors?) done really well. Most of the movie, however, I found myself asking simply “Why isn’t this longer?” The framework is there. Like I said, they did the premise already; that’s been done. The story begins at a point where it could easily have already developed the story further, jumping in as it does with Paradox already attacking Yusei, with no build-up. Ultimately, it just doesn’t do enough to justify its existence, even though the tools are there, and as a result feels like a shameless cash-in.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: None, only the monsters fight. They blow up when they’re defeated, but that’s about it.
Sex/Nudity: None whatsoever.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A really promising premise let down by lazy execution. 5/10

Friday 22 July 2011

Dickass DM

Remember good, old-fashioned gamebooks? They promised all the fun of a role-playing game, with none of the social interaction - what more could a teenage boy desire? The thing is, that while the gamebook became a great gaming experience in its own right, the only RPG it could possibly have simulated was one being GM'd by Satan himself. 90% of decisions led to certain death, and combat was often fatal.

Satan wasn't available, so Brad will be GMing Rob through an RPG based on the classic Ian Livingstone gamebook Island of the Lizard King. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Brag Slytherin.

Catch up with previous Dickass DM installments here!
Brad: Let's get back classic: 1980s Fighting Fantasy.
Rob: Sounds good. Season 12 away! We beat Frasier!
Brad: That's just M*A*S*H to go now, right?
Rob: I guess, or maybe ER. And The Simpsons, obviously.
Brad: Oyster Bay is a quiet fishing village some sixty miles down the coast from the notorious Port Blacksand. Because it is at the end of a long peninsula reached only by a steep and winding path, the fishermen and their wives are left to lead a simple but content life, away from the monsters and sorcery of the hinterland.
Rob: Oyster Bay? Sounds delightful, though I suspect it will be anything but...
Brad: Journeying south from Fang, you decide that you could do with a few days' rest, and knowing of no more peaceful place than Oyster Bay, you urge your horse towards the coast.
Rob: Oyster Bay is south of Fang? Now it sounds less relaxing.
Brad: Besides, an old adventuring friend of yours called Mungo Redshirt lives there now, and it has been years since you last saw him. Two days later you arrive at the edge of the cliffs overlooking Oyster Bay.
It is a beautiful sunny morning and everything looks tranquil below. Nothing seems to have changed. The cluster of stone cottages nestles between the foot of the cliffs and the jetty, where a dozen fishing boats lie at anchor.
Rob: I don't like the placement of the word "seems" in that sentence.
Brad: "Seems" is a GM's favourite word. You jump off your horse and walk it down the winding path to the village. The first people you see are a group of crying women. As you approach them, several men step out of a cottage and run towards you.
Rob: I tackle the nearest one.
Brad: One of the four is your old friend Mungo Redshirt. His weather-beaten face is full of anger.
Rob: I just tackled him. It's understandable.

Mungo Redshirt: You've got some nerve coming back here after the stunt you pulled.
Brag: By stunt, you mean 'your mum'? OOOOOOOHHHHH!
Rob: I put my penis away.
Brad: He looks surprised to see you but wastes no time with words of welcome. He recounts the sad events that have befallen the village.
Rob: Did it start with the disappearance of his mother?
Brad: Having no gold or material wealth, the people of Oyster Bay thought themselves safe from raiders attacking their village. But several weeks ago, while most of the men were out at sea, the Lizard Men of Fire Island landed their boats in Oyster Bay and kidnapped several young men. Mungo Redshirt believes that they are now enslaved on Fire Island and working in chain gangs in the gold mines.
Since the kidnapping, two men were left to guard the village while the rest went out to fish.
Rob: They left two?! Out of how many?
Brad: Despite this, the Lizard Men attacked again this very morning, overpowering the guards and taking away more young men.
Mungo Redshirt: I am about to set sail for Fire Island alone, because the other fishermen are too scared to set foot on the Island.
Brag: Poofs.
Brad: He stares at you in silence until you say that you will aid him in his quest.

Mungo Redshirt: *stares*
Brag: What, you think I'm going to go? These guys are fishermen and they won't go....fishermen! Oh fine, I'll go. Maybe someone on the island has need of a landscape gardener and we can barter with them.
Mungo Redshirt: *stares*
Brag: I said I'll go!
Brad: He slaps you on the back and shakes your hand in gratitude.
Brag: Delayed reaction or what?
Brad: For the moment the poor fishing folk forget their grief and crowd round you, eager to thank you. Mungo Redshirt then invites you to dine with him and rest awhile, as the voyage to Fire Island will take several hours. Over a delicious feast of boiled lobster and salad, you discuss your plans.
Brag: During which time you'll notice that I mentioned having become a landscape gardener since last time we spoke.
Mungo Redshirt: Please forgive the ironic lack of oysters in this meal. *stares*
Brag: What? Oh! Sorry, Ha ha! No oysters, even though we're in Oyster Bay! Brilliant. Ahhh....funniest thing I've heard in ages.
Mungo Redshirt: *stares*
Brag: I said it was funny!
Mungo Redshirt: I do not think that humans live on Fire Island any longer, but my knowledge of the place is fairly limited.
Brag: Well, whoever lives there may want something in the way of Azalias, and that's where I come in!
Mungo Redshirt: These are just rumours that pass between fishermen from other coastal villages.
Brag: Go on...
Mungo Redshirt: Fire Island used to be a prison colony, guarded by a tribe of paid Lizard Men. This was a rather futile attempt by Prince Olaf to rid his land of undesirable characters.
Brag: Why were they paid? What need have Lizard Men for gold?
Mungo Redshirt: The good prince soon learnt that it would have been simpler to put his lawful citizens on Fire Island and leave the evil doers on the mainland. There were just too many of them. He gave up his attempt and abandoned the prison colony. When the Lizard Men received no pay, they took their vengeance out on the prisoners and the island became a place of terror ruled by a Lizard Man prison guard who proclaimed himself King. King Mc'spnd'lah.
Brag: Mc....Spnd...Lah?
Mungo Redshirt: *stares*
Brag: *stares*
Mungo Redshirt: The prisoners were forced to dig mines in the hope of finding gold for King Mc'spnd'lah. They were underfed and ill-treated and many died.
Brag: That'll happen.
Mungo Redshirt: That must be why King Mc'spd'lah is sending out his men to find new slaves.
Brag: I've been made to understand that it's one of the pitfalls (no pun intended) of mining.
Mungo Redshirt: It is known that to assert his authority, King Mc'spnd'lah began practicing voodoo and black magic.
Brag: The chocolates?
Mungo Redshirt: He also started genetic experiments in an attempt to breed an invincible race of Lizard Men. Most of the experiments went wrong. Grotesque mutants were created, and some of the harmful potions found their way into the water drains, with terrible consequences. The local flora and fauna were affected, with the result being that man-eating plants developed and...
Brag: And I agreed to go to this place?
Mungo Redshirt: A few of the prisoners managed to escape the island on rafts and were picked up by fishermen, but what has happened in the last few years, nobody knows. Fire Island had almost been forgotten until the recent raids.

Brad: Success in your quest to assassinate King Mc'spnd'lah and rescue the kidnapped victims is doubtful, but you must try.
Rob: Why?
Brad: *stares*
Rob: Why are you staring at me? More importantly, we're on MSN, how are you staring at me?
Brad: You stand up and walk down to the jetty with Mungo Redshirt, stepping aboard his small fishing boat. In the sight of cheering villagers, you untie the boat and push out to sea, wondering if you will ever return. Mungo Redshirt's years with the fishermen of Oyster Bay have made him a skilful boatman. He swiftly hoists the sail of the small boat and sets a course due west across the silvery-blue sea. The land soon recedes into the distance, and you sit back on the deck, relaxing in the afternoon sunshine.
From the stern you hear merry whistling, the creak of the rudder, and Mungo Redshirt occasionally calling out to a seabird passing overhead. And staring at others. You think about the good time you used to have with Mungo Redshirt, his constant cheerful nature and willingess to help people in need. You find it difficult to believe that so much evil exists in the land where there lives the likes of Mungo Redshirt.
Brag: Yeah, why aren't you that guy anymore? Why did you start just staring randomly at objects?
Mungo Redshirt: *stares*
Brag: Oh, forget it.
TO BE CONTINUED...Words: Brad Harmer & Robert Wade
You can become Brad's "friend" on Facebook, or you can "follow" him on Twitter. Depends how creepy you want to sound really.
This is intended as a loving tribute to Ian Livingstone, the Fighting Fantasy series, Island of the Lizard King, and all other gamebooks of yesteryear.

Thursday 21 July 2011

Star Wars Giveaway

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Timothy Zahn comes a brand-new Star Wars adventure, set in the time between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and featuring the young Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, and the beloved Mara Jade.

The fate of the Rebellion rests on Luke Skywalker’s next move, but have the rebels entered a safe harbor or a death trap?

Eight months after the Battle of Yavin, the Rebellion is in desperate need of a new base. So when Governor Ferrouz of Candoras Sector proposes an alliance, offering the Rebels sanctuary in return for protection against the alien warlord Nuso Esva, Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie are sent to evaluate the deal.

Mara Jade, the Emperor’s Hand, is also heading for Candoras, along with the five renegade stormtroopers known as the Hand of Judgment. Their mission: to punish Ferrouz’s treason and smash the Rebels for good.

But in this treacherous game of betrayals within betrayals, a wild card is waiting to be played.

Thanks to our friends at Century, Random House, we've got three copies of Star Wars: Choices of One to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Thursday 28th July, making sure to put "Star Wars" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "Star Wars" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Star Wars: Choices of One is published by Century, priced £18.99.

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

Wednesday 20 July 2011

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Red Weed


Had the Marsians aimed only at destruction (as I often do), they might have annihilated the entire population of London by Thursday lunchtime. If one could have sat in a chinook in the sky above London, every road running out of the tangled maze of streets would have seemed black with the streaming fugitives. I wittered at great length on my brother's account of the road through Chipping Barnet, in order that you may realise how that swarming of black dots appeared to one of those concerned. And because he said I had to mention him in my book, or he'll reveal everything about the crumpets incident.

Never before in the history of the world had such a mass of human beings moved and suffered together. It was the beginning of the rout of civilisation, of the massacre of mankind.

Over the blue hills that rise southward of the river, the glittering Marsians went to and fro, calmly and methodically spreading their poison cloud over this patch of country, and taking possession of the conquered country. They do not seem to have aimed at extermination so much as at complete demoralisation and the destruction of any territory - a bit like Vince Russo. They exploded any stores of powder they came upon, cut every telegraph, ate the last peanuts and wrecked the railways here and there. They seemed in no hurry to extend the field of their operations, and did not come beyond the central part of London all that day. It is possible that a very considerable number of people in London stuck to their houses through Monday morning. Certain it is that many died at home suffocated by the Black Smoke.

Of the falling of the fifth cylinder I have yet to tell. The sixth star fell at Wimbledon. Mycroft, keeping watch on the women in the chaise in a meadow, saw the green flash of it far beyond the hills. On Tuesday the little party, still set upon getting across the sea, made its way through the swarming country towards Colchester. The news that the Marsians were now in possession of the whole of London was confirmed. They had been seen at Highgate, and even, it was said, at Neasden. But they did not come into my brother's view until the morrow.

That day the scattered multitudes began to realise the urgent need of provisions. As they grew hungry the rights of property ceased to be regarded. Farmers were out to defend their cattle-sheds, granaries, and ripening root crops with arms in their hands. A number of people now, like my brother, had their faces eastward, and there were some desperate souls even going back towards London to get food. These were chiefly northeners, whose knowledge of the Black Smoke and adverbs came by hearsay. He heard that about half the members of the government had gathered at Birmingham, and that enormous quantities of high explosives were being prepared to be used in automatic mines across the Midland counties.

He was also told that the Midland Railway Company had replaced the desertions of the first day's panic, and was running northward trains from St. Albans to relieve the congestion of the home counties. There was also a placard in Chipping Ongar announcing that large stores of flour were available in the northern towns and that within twenty-four hours bread would be distributed among the starving people in the neighbourhood. But this intelligence did not deter him from the plan of escape he had formed, (although he did steal some flour) and the three pressed eastward all day, hearing no more of the bread distribution than this promise. Nor, as a matter of fact, did anyone else hear more of it. That night fell the seventh star, falling upon Primrose Hill. It fell while Mrs Hotpants was watching, for she took that duty alternately with my brother. She saw it.

On Wednesday the three fugitives — they had passed the night in a field of unripe beef (ie. cows) — reached Chelmsford, and there a body of the inhabitants, calling itself the Committee of Public Supply, seized the pony as provisions, and would give nothing in exchange for it but the promise of a share in it the next day. Here there were rumours of Martians at Epping, and news of the destruction of Waltham Abbey Powder Mills in a vain attempt to blow up one of the invaders.

People were watching for Marsians from the church towers. My brother, very luckily for him as it chanced, preferred to push on at once to the coast rather than wait for food, although all three of them were very hungry. By midday they passed through Tillingham, which, strangely enough, seemed to be quite silent and deserted, save for a few hunting for food. Near Tillingham they suddenly came in sight of the sea, and the most amazing crowd of shipping of all sorts that it is possible to imagine.

For after the sailors could no longer come up the Thames, they came on to the Essex coast. They lay in a huge sickle-shaped curve that vanished into mist at last towards the Naze. There were ships all shapes and sizes scattered out along the bay — English, Scotch, French, Rodian, Dutch, and Swedish; steam launches from the Thames, yachts, electric boats, pirate ships, boats made from folded up newspaper, a small turtle that was just pretending; and beyond were ships of large burden, a multitude of filthy colliers, trim merchantmen, cattle ships, passenger boats, petroleum tanks, ocean tramps, an old white transport even, neat white and grey liners from Southampton and Hamburg; and along the blue coast across the Blackwater my brother could make out dimly a dense swarm of boats chaffering with the people on the beach, a swarm which also extended up the Blackwater almost to Maldon.

About a couple of miles out lay an ironclad, very low in the water, almost like a water-logged ship. This was the warship ThunderChild. It was the only warship in sight, but far away to the right over the smooth surface of the sea—for that day there was a dead calm—lay a serpent of black smoke to mark the next ironclads of the Channel Fleet, which hovered in an extended line, steam up and ready for action, across the Thames estuary during the course of the Marsian conquest, vigilant and yet powerless to prevent it.

At the sight of the sea, Mrs. Hotpants, in spite of the assurances of her sister-in-law, gave way to panic. She had never been out of England before, she would rather die than trust herself friendless in a foreign country, and so forth. She seemed, poor woman, to imagine that the French and the Marsians might prove very similar.

Words: Brad Harmer & H.G. Wells
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