Posts Tagged ‘Urban Fantasy’

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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Disclaimer: I have read an advance reviewer copy, some details may change in the final commercial copy

I want to thanks Angry Robot and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

I have been wondering lately what makes a story good. In the Spanish film industry we are living right now a unique moment that no one saw coming, for the first time in Spanish history a Spanish movie has made more money than any American film has ever done (except for Avatar). This movie, 8 apellidos vascos (which in English has been translated as Spanish Affair), is a comedy about the cultural differences between the south and the north of Spain. It isn’t something entirely new and, while it is true is really funny, it is not one of those movies one would expect to do almost 50 million Euros in Spain alone (not even Titanic did that). So, is it the story itself? The actors (the Amazing Carmen machi, Dani Robira and the talented Clara Lago)? Or is it maybe the economic crisis and the social tension between the north and the south? I don’t know, I feel I need more beers in order to find the answer.

Peacemaker-CR

Strong points: the setting.

Weak points: Clichés, some events feel forced.

Peacemaker, written by Marianne de Pierres, tells us the story of Virgin Jackson, a ranger in the last natural landscape on earth. Now, her beloved Park has become a murder scene during her watch and is up to her and her new partner, the enigmatic Marshal Nate Sixkiller, to find the killer before the obsessive detective Chance manages to frame Virgin herself for the murder and to discover why Aquila, Virgin’s eagle-shaped imaginary friend from her childhood, has reappeared the same night said crime was committed.

If there is anything that makes Peacemaker a worthwhile reading it is, undoubtedly, its setting. Marianne de Pierre has managed to create a wonderful world which mixes science fiction and urban fantasy creating something unique: a society which mixes technology and shamanistic magic in a way that feels natural and is rapidly accepted by the reader. It is also worth it to note that the urban landscape where the novel takes place is varied and full of life, being similar to a real city in its complexity and social rules instead of the overly used clichés we find out in fictional cities such as “the zone where no one under any circumstances should enter which you know the hero will have to enter” or the “uppity zone where everyone is a heartless bastard”. Ms de Pierres manages to create a megacity which feels real and which serves as home to a group of unforgettable inhabitants.

Sadly, the story-telling fares worse. The novel goes from cliché to cliché and by halfway through the book it has lost its original flavor. The relationship between the characters is one big cliché, dividing the male group in two categories: those who are in love with Virgin and those who have a paternal relationship with Virgin. This makes the novel a highly predictable love pentagon (really?) between Virgin and her cohorts of male suitors, which works fine with her due to the fact that every one of her four admirers have a unique skill that gets her through the story: Sixkiller shoots things, Totes hacks things, Heart charms things and Hamish drives things (and runs them over). The events don’t escape this effect either and are soon a predestined chain of events which doesn’t manage to finish catching the reader’s attention, even the ending, unexpected as it is, seems borrowed from other books that come before it.

As a result of the story walking an over-used path, some of the events feel forced in order to create a result. The whole relationship Sixkiller-Virgin goes in a cycle distrust-trust-distrust-trust without any apparent motive as do their feelings, one moment they are colleagues and the next they are giving the other person “The Look”. Sometimes they feel more like puppets than actual characters, just fulfilling the necessary functions to reach a decided result.

While this may not be Angry Robot’s best book by a long shot (Age Atomic and The Lives of Tao hold that title for now and they are difficult to top) Peacemaker is not a bad book either if all you are looking for is to relax and enjoy your free time. After all, what makes a good story? Is it the story itself? Or is it the moment when you read it?

FINAL SCORE: 5/10

¡Hasta la próxima!

Three months ago I started Thelordbaelish blog in what you may call a whim. For a long time I had contemplated starting a blog which specialized in Fantasy and Science Fiction books’ reviews and in the last days of 2013 I decided it was the time to do it. Today I happily admit that I just reached the first milestone of this journey, three months of writing reviews. So I want to use this paragraph in which I usually comment things that in my mind seem important and then in paper they look as interesting as Fireblood (still ranting, still ranting) to thank everyone for their reads, their likes, their follows and their support. Next milestone: January one of2015. Let’s go from a non-very ambitious goal to an ambitious one (middle ground? what is that?).

in

Strong Points: The main characters and their development, the writing style.

Weak points: some parts are somehow dense,some elements feel underplayed.

Innocence, written by Dean Koontz, tells us the story of Addison and Gwyneth. He is a young man who suffers from a strange condition by which when people look at his face they feel and uncontrollable need to kill him; she is a young woman whose social phobia has kept her alone and isolated. In a world that despises them they will have to trust each other, but a change is coming, and the signs seem only obvious for these two outcasts.

There are two points that in my mind make Innocence a novel worth reading and one of them is its main characters. We are told the story from the point of view of Addison, an extraordinary and complex character that will captivate the readers from almost the first moment. Addison has been forced to live his whole life away from other people and the author manages to personified all the innocence but also all the maturity that comes by the singular life style of this character. Addison’s vision of the world matches perfectly with the character himself and his circumstances, and his reactions to everything that happens around him are believable, making him humane and a character in which the reader may find him/herself reflected only because Addison´s depth make him feel like a real human being despite his extraordinary circumstances. On the other hand, Gwyneth hasn’t lived as isolated as her male counterpart, her reclusion being her own choice because of her dislike to directly interact with other human beings, and this shows in her vocabulary and her behavior. The author has perfectly represented a young girl who has lost everything and has been forced the mature faster than anyone around her and even if we see her always from Addison point of view she shares his depth and his complexities making her a very difficult character to predict.

Their development is not less perfect and beautiful than the characters themselves. The subtlety by which the author develops Addison and Gwyneth is astonishing to the point that it feels as the small changes that happen to a person we have been seeing every day for months: you don’t notice the changes immediately until the result is different enough but when you notice you recall the change step by step. The same happens in this novel, by the end you realize how much the characters have changed since the first pages. This development doesn’t feel forced and it seems to flow naturally as a sensible response to the events that occur around the characters. This development, so natural and complex at the same time, deepens the effect already created by the characters themselves in which we feel as if we were in the presence of real human beings opening their minds and hearts to us.

The other point that makes this novel a worthy read is the writing style of Dean Koontz. His timing and his grasp of the English language may only be defined as wondrous. Mr. Koontz’s prose is beautiful, completely poetical with a sense of style and a grasp of vocabulary which sets Dean Koontz as an example for any aspiring author at least where the use of prose is concerned. This beautiful writing style goes together amazingly well with the story, pulling the reader inside the story. I can only compare the author with film director Nicolas Winding, in Drive you get drunk with the colors that fill the screen while in Innocence you get drunk with the words that fill the pages.

Sadly, some parts of the novel feel too dense and slow paced to the point that it may lose the interest of the reader, especially at the beginning and at the very end of the book. The lack of action whatsoever in these parts make it feel as if you were reading a philosophy essay rather than a novel, making it difficult to go on when all you are looking for is a story. Once you get through approximately the 40% of the book, the story picks up in pace with astonishing speed and keeps you turning pages to see what happens next.

Finally, some elements of the story feel underplayed and leave you somehow of a sour taste in your mouth because of the unused potential. An example of this is the collection of marionettes, which are introduced with a dark and rather crude backstory which captivated me and left me wanting to see these terrifying toys play an important role in the story. Sadly, they are never fully explained and their exit is both too soon and too anticlimactic for my taste. There is even a mention that there is one more of their kind but then it is completely forgotten and has not weight in the rest of the novel.

Innocence has been a captivating story as soon as it picks its pace up, using it strong points to keep me reading for the first 40% of the book. I would recommend Innocence to those readers without any kind of prejudice to the urban fantasy genre, because Dean Koontz doesn’t follow any kind of established rule in this novel.

FINAL SCORE: 7/10

¡Hasta la próxima!