Monday, 31 August 2009

Movie Review - Outlander (2008)

Vikings versus an alien monster.

Still reading? Good for you, because you're in for a genre treat with Outlander, an action-horror that knows exactly what it wants to be and makes no apologies. James Caviezel plays Kainen, an alien warrior whose spaceship crashes in Iron Age Norway. Captured by a Viking tribe, he quickly realises that the atrocities visited upon local villages are the work of a Moorwen, a deadly creature from his homeworld. The monster stowed away on his ship and is now wreaking havoc, unopposed. It's up to Kainen to help these poorly equipped people hunt and kill a far superior foe. The Viking King (played by the always brilliant John Hurt) and his sword-wielding daughter (lovely Sophia Myles) recognise the outlander's worth, while other members of the tribe would rather blame him for the bloodshed. An uneasy alliance begins.

It's an old, old formula but the sci-fi bent gives this hero tale (Beowulf from outer space) plenty of juice. Caviezel plays it deadly serious, and the story's much stronger for it. Kainen and the Moorwen share a bitter history; this isn't a straightforward hero versus monster scenario. Apart from the well-done action scenes and special effects, Outlander has a solid script, a strong visual look (misty forests, caves, waterfalls etc) and four or five good actors. Add to this a fascinating creature and you have one of the better 'B' movies of recent years. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Saturday, 29 August 2009

August Round-Up

Damnation Books signed my latest sci-fi future novella, Godiva in the Firing Line, a fascinating mix of war, romance, politics, and deep space adventure. It's scheduled for a March 2010 release and will be my second title at Damnation. More info soon.

I read a number of strong books this month, including three I had on my TBR list for well over a year. Cormac McCarthy's The Road exerts a vice-like grip. Strikingly barren in terms of setting and even punctuation, it's also one of the richest post-apocalyptic tales I've read, by virtue of a wonderful, mostly unspoken relationship between father and son. It's man's existence pared down to day-by-day, scavenge by scavenge, survival. McCarthy's imagery is razor-edged, and his ending couldn't be more powerful. A must-read.

Stephen King's The Mist is one I desperately wanted to read after seeing the movie, which I loved. And a faithful adaptation it was, too (apart from the ending!). The novella is chock full of King's quirky observations on everyday folk; all his characters react differently to the truly horrific scenario. I especially liked the rise of superstition as the core group of "heroes" tries its best to steer a logical path. We get glimpses of the very best and (mostly) worst of people under pressure. Riveting stuff!

I'd heard so much about Stephanie Meyer's Twilight that, frankly, my expectations weren't high. Vampires were long-in-the-tooth decades ago, and I'm not a huge fan of high school romances. I like the sensual aspect of vamps, and the gothic settings they used to frequent; but how many times have we seen garlic, crucifixes, wooden stakes, shafts of sunlight etc? Too bloody many (pun intended). The Hammer horror Dracula movies are my favourite incarnations--period creep-fests with bags of atmosphere. Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Yes, yes. Here, I was prepared for a cringe-worthy modern soap with goths, bad text messages etc. What I got was a long-winded but compelling forbidden romance. Bella is a nicely written heroine--a gawky klutz in a new school, an unassuming beauty with real intelligence. She falls head over heels for the mysterious Edward Cullen, whose mood swings rival Jekyll and Hyde on a bad hair day. Edward is clearly the author's image of male perfection--extraordinary good looks, dark, brooding, with superhuman attributes. Their relationship takes many turns--probably too many--but I enjoyed Meyer's intimate storytelling, along with the clever disclosure of Edward's real identity. A good, solid read.

My favourite new DVDs this month were Knowing, an enthralling, portentous thriller starring Nicolas Cage; Zack Snyder's bizarre but impressive superhero opus, Watchmen, featuring a truly fascinating super-being called Dr. Manhattan; Doubt, an acting masterclass from Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman; and Mickey Rourke's The Wrestler, one of the best films I've seen all year.

I didn't really fancy any of the cinema releases this month, but I've seen trailers for a few that have caught my eye. District 9, an alien action-mystery set in South Africa, looks amazing. James Cameron's Avatar will be an absolute treat in 3D--to my mind, he's made six brilliant films in a row, not counting this one. More delicious 3D from Robert Zemeckis (A Christmas Carol) and Tim Burton (Alice in Wonderland), two of my favourite directors. I'm also looking forward to Joe Johnston's The Wolf Man, Roland Emmerich's disaster epic 2012, and Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones. A pretty good winter line-up!

Till next time,


Thursday, 20 August 2009

Sept 1st - Launch Day at Damnation Books!

Not long to wait now...for the grand opening of Damnation Books, a superb new dark fiction publisher! As the author of Val and Tyne, one of the twenty-five inaugural titles, I can honestly say this has been the smoothest pre-publication process I've been a part of. My story was treated with care and respect from day one, and the owner, Kim Richards, has gone to great lengths to ensure all our titles reach the widest possible online readership. I haven't read the other stories yet, but if the management is anything to go by, Damnation deserves to go far.

Here’s the opening line up of authors and titles. Every single book will be offered in ebook and digital formats beginning September 1st. Only novels and novellas will be available in trade paperback.

Amy Grech - Blanket of White - Horror Novel length Short Story Collection
Christian Saunders - Apartment 14F: an Oriental Ghost Story - Paranormal/Horror Novella
Collette Thomas - Deadly Games Book 1 in Todd Hollow Series - Thriller/Erotica novel
Cory Cramer - Symptoms of a Broken Heart - Horror/Erotica Novella
Edward M. Erdelac - Dubaku - Horror Novella
Edward P. McDermott - On the Lake where the Loons Cry - Thriller Short story
Mark Edward Hall - The Haunting of Sam Cabot - Horror/Psychological Novella
Geoff Chaucer - Concubine - Horror/Erotica Short story
James Dorr - The Garden - Science Fiction Novella
Jason Kahn - The Killer Within - Thriller Short story
Joel Arnold - The Siege - Science Fiction/Paranormal Short Story
John B. Rosenman - Green in our Souls - Science Fiction Short story
John W. Podgursky - The One-Percenters - Psychological/Thriller novella
Lawrence Dagstine - Visitation Rights - Paranormal Short Story
Lily - Eden Fell - Dark psychology/philosophy Novella
Michael McLarnon - Dark Isle - Horror Novel
Noel Hynd - The Prodigy "Author's Revised Edition" - Thriller Novel
Robert Appleton - Val and Tyne - Horror Short Story
Alan Spencer - The Body Cartel – Thriller/Horror Novel
S. A. Bolich - Who Mourns for the Hangman? - Dark Fantasy Short Story
Ted Kehoe - Trip Trap - Horror Short Story
Tim Marquitz - Armageddon Bound - Urban Fantasy Novel
Yolanda Sfetsos - Faithless Book 1 - Erotica Novella
The Zombie Cookbook - Horror/Comedy AnthologyContributing authors include: Lisa Haselton, Cinsearae Santiago, Becca Butcher, Carla Girtman, Scott Virtes, Karina Fabian, Dawn Marshallsay, Lin Neiswender, & Kate Sender.

Where can you find our books September 1st?

Definitely here at our own website.

We will have books for sale at Fictionwise, Mobipocket, Amazon digital, Shortcovers, as well as, a host of online bookstores.

However, we want you to shop here first.

So much so, we’re offering variable pricing on ebooks from our website only. What the heck is variable pricing? It works like this: At 12:01 A.M on the day a new book goes live on our site, it’s offered free. Yes, you read correctly. The first copy is FREE! With each download the book rises in price by five cents until it reaches its full retail price. At that time, the book remains at full retail price. Coupons and discount codes are not applicable for any book until it reaches its full retail price.

This means that every single one of the books listed above will be launched using the variable pricing at 12:01 A.M. on September 1st 2009. Awesome, huh?

One more thing—we’re hosting a launch party at Killercon in September. We invite you to join us for some fun, free stuff and a chance to meet a few of our authors. While you’re at the convention, be sure to visit our table in the Dealer’s Room.