Archive for June, 2014

Do you think there really is a creativity crisis in the cultural media? I have been hearing that for a long time and it is true that reboots, remakes, sequels and prequels are on vogue nowadays in movies, videogames and books. There is also a rise on adaptations from one media to another and not always of the best quality (Dragon age books and Death Island books? Anyone? No? Then stay away from them). On the other hand we have witnessed some original stories coming out lately: movies like The Grand Budapest Hotel or Gravity or books such as Apocalypse Now Now while some of the greatest classics of all time have been based on pre-existing works, such as the Godfather. I really don’t think it is a problem about creativity, it is about franchises, which is something entirely different: as a producer your wet dream is to find a franchise which interests the studios and that the public will like; it really has nothing to do with the lack of imagination of the script writer Association, it has to do with an effort to make a complicated sector safer for the investors.

ANN

Strong points: Originality, narrative.

Weak points: Tries to tell too much, some events feel forced.

Apocalypse Now Now, written by Charlie Human (Highly suspicious last name if you ask me. It is like when your roommate tells you something like “I didn’t have sex with your Teddy Bear” before you even go into your room), tells us the story of Baxter Zevcenko, a teenage kingpin who controls the porn market of his school’s yard. When his kleptomaniac girlfriend is kidnapped by a notorious serial killer Baxter hires the help of a supernatural bounty hunter, starting a series of events that will take him to places that he only expected to visit in his worst nightmares.

Apocalypse Now Now shines for its original setting. Everything that we find and feels as fresh air in an age when the risks of originality are not easily taken. This version of South Afrika exceeds in craziness, darkness and magic in an alluring way which will have you reading onwards just for the sheer strangeness you find. The criminal societies which populate the Westridge high school are built in a way by which every one of them is different and the monsters that populate Cape Town have unique qualities in their design and in how they integrate in the human society that surrounds them. The world that has been crafted in this novel is unique and highly enjoyable.

The narrative is both fresh and alluring, managing a fast and captivating pace which fits perfectly with the story at hand. The author manages to change the speaking patterns and the vocabulary used by the different characters, creating through the dialog itself very different personalities.

Sadly (and this is something I never thought I would say) the novel has too many good ideas, which results in the author not developing them to their fullest potential. For example, the idea of a high school dominated by gags which act as if they were corporations, mafias or even the Nazi Party is an alluring idea which has many narrative possibilities, but sadly as soon as the next plot starts it is all forgotten and falls into obscurity.

Some events feel forced and clumsily fitted in just as a way to advance the story: Like the conversation by which Baxter finds out Esme has been kidnapped, which feels awkward and unnatural to say the least.

Apocalypse Now Now is an original novel which I highly recommend to the fans of the urban fantasy genre and t those readers that are looking for something new and fresh. Maybe it ain’t perfect but it is enjoyable and will give readers a good time.

Ok, so book review: check! Next item in the list: investigate the author. If you don’t heard of me in the next two weeks, call the Men in Black.

ALien
too… human

FINAL SCORE: 7/10

¡Hasta la próxima!

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I want to thanks Tor and Netgalley for the opportunity of Reading an advance copy

Gritty fantasy has always being a personal favorite of mine, at least since the moment I picked Game of Thrones and started to read it six years ago (I am going to stop pointing out how long ago things happened, because this is starting to get depressive). There is, in my opinion, something human in gritty fantasy; it has both faces of reality: the optimistic and the ugly one. That combination, I think, manages to offer a story where everything can happen, just as the real world. You are afraid your favorite characters aren’t going to made it but you still rooting for them anyway and that produces a mix of Agony and Emotion which gets addictive. (Yes, I am still mourning Oberyn Martell, that’s what all of this is about, and yes I had read the book, but it was nothing comparable to his death in the show).

Us

Strong points: The characters, the story development.

Weak points: some elements feel underplayed.

Unwrapped Sky, written by Rjurik Davidson (who also can boast of having the most fantasy character-like name ever), invites the reader to Calei-Amur, an independent city full of magic and mystery ruled by three merchant houses. From the points of view of Kata, a philosopher-assassin trying to escape her contract with one of the houses, Boris Autec, a once factory worker who finds himself rising to a position of power, and Maximilian, a young dreamer who is part of the rebel group known as the Seditionists, the reader will witness a story about change and revolution as a small group of people try to fight against the brutal rule of the three houses.

If there is something in this novel that really helps the readers to connect with the story is its unforgettable characters. Their complexities offer us an alluring game of lights and shadows within each one of them which will capture the readers pulling them into the pages. Possibly Boris is the most interesting and tragic out of the three main characters; his slow degeneration offers the reader a heartbreaking character development of a man who just wants to make the world a better place but finds himself overrun by the sheer pressure of the events that unravel around him . We witness an emotional journey that takes place step by step, almost unnoticed, until we are in front of a much changed character and we realize the subtle process that has taken him there. Kata and Maximilian also have their own share of complexities and internal conflicts that make the characters feel alive: Kata will do anything to escape her actual life even if it means to continue committing the crimes that have driven her to hate it. Finally Maximilian offers a lighter character but also marked by the fight between what he should be and what he is, being particularly interesting the fact that he is trying to ignore that his actions are driven by a desire of glory.

The story development is astonishing. The novel unravels itself masterfully driving us towards its climax while playing with the pace. The way Mr. Davidson has developed Unwrapped Sky manages to attract the readers and trap them in the book, making it increasingly difficult to put down (I read the last 40% in one go). The subtlety by which the author provides information is also a strong point in its development, managing to dodge the (personally hated) over explanation effect and allowing the reader to discover some answers through the hints he provides; one example being the true identity of the Elo-talern, which is never provided directly but is hinted through the book.

The story had an amazing start, an army of minotaurs marching through the streets of Calei-Amur, going to join an annual celebration where they are the guests of honor. Imagine my dismay when, after building my expectations, I find out the minotaurs are forgotten by chapter six. This is the weak point of Unwrapped Sky, some elements feel underplayed, not used to their full potential, leaving races such as the minotaurs or the new-men or even the Elo-Talern almost as side notes in the story when it was hinted they would be important on the story (There is a freaking minotaur on the cover, I call that a hint). Luckily, the ending suggest this won’t be a stand-alone novel, so in the future we can hope for some of this elements to become increasingly important.

I have really enjoyed Unwrapped Sky and I recommend it to anyone who happens to love interesting characters, political fantasy and gritty narrative. Mr. Davidson must be congratulated for this amazing piece of work and for having the most awesome name I have encountered. Now I am going back to listening “Let it go” while mourning Oberyn.

FINAL SCORE: 8/10

¡Hasta la próxima!