Friday 21 September 2012

Zenith Lives! ed. by Stuart Douglas – reviewed by Stephen Theaker

M. Zenith the Albino is from the rogues’ gallery of Sexton Blake, although a book with the variety and quality of Zenith Lives! (Obverse Books, pb, 2425ll, edited by Stuart Douglas, fourth entry in the Obverse Quarterly series), attracting such high quality contributors as Michael Moorcock and Paul Magrs, makes one wonder whether he might outlive his opponent. I won’t pretend to be an expert on Zenith: all I knew till reading this book was that he had inspired the appearance of Elric of Melniboné; I didn’t even know of his connection to Sexton Blake. Luckily, a couple of stories in, my interest piqued, I was able to refer to Blakiana, a superb website maintained by Mark Hodder, another of the contributors to this book. From there I learnt that the original conception was one that we might now think rather old-fashioned, in that Zenith turned to evil out of bitterness over his albinism, but that aspect isn’t one on which these stories particularly dwell. Unlike Elric, he’s not a weakling; in these stories we read of “his powerful muscles and extraordinary sense of balance”.

Monday 17 September 2012

Alcatraz, Season 1 – reviewed by Howard Watts

Alcatraz. JJ Abrams is a sensationalist. A sensationalist in a genre that doesn’t need him. He’s muddying the waters of good storytelling, breaking the time honoured traditions laid down centuries ago, creating a dumbed-down environment where it’s deemed acceptable to produce sub-standard, unfinished, not thought out work, masquerading as revolutionary.

Agreed, he creates circumstances that hook—which is part and parcel of our genre, any genre for that matter. However, his fictional circumstances are contrived and will never reward those foolish enough to go the distance with him.

Saturday 15 September 2012

Shelflings #3 is imminent!

Shelflings is a British Fantasy Society members-only ezine compiled by me from reviews edited by Craig Lockley, Phil Lunt and Jay Eales for the BFS website.

Links for downloading issue three will soon be emailed out to members, so, if you're one of them, make sure the BFS has your current email address on file, especially if you didn't receive the emails sent out for previous issues. Send updates to the BFS membership secretary at If you're not a member, this would be a perfect time to join.

Friday 14 September 2012

Goliath by Tom Gauld – reviewed by Stephen Theaker

The Goliath of the title (Drawn & Quarterly, hb, 96pp) is the one from the Bible, and this is Tom Gauld’s version of his ill-starred battle with David, or rather the build-up to it, the actual confrontation and its aftermath taking up just the last seven pages of the book. Goliath is part of the Philistine army, but he’s not the mighty warrior of legend. In fact, he’s the self-confessed “fifth-worst swordsman” in his platoon. Reading the challenge he must make to the Israelites, his first response is to faint. Upon waking he says, “I do paperwork! I’m a very good administrator.” He isn’t a coward, exactly; he’s just sensible and doesn’t like fighting.

Monday 10 September 2012

The Lorax – reviewed by Jacob Edwards

“I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees, but cutesy sells tickets, so do what you please.” The Lorax. Directed by Chris Renaud (with Kyle Balda).

Twelve year old Ted Wiggins (Zac Efron) lives in Thneed-Ville, an artificially happy and colourful bubble city with inflatable trees and commercialised fresh air. To win the affections of girl-next-door Audrey (Taylor Swift), he must first brave the wasteland outside of Thneed-Ville and speak to the crotchety, reclusive old Once-ler (Ed Helms), then plant a Truffula Tree in defiance of the nefarious and unscrupulous Mayor O’Hare (Rob Riggle). As the Once-ler confesses the details of his greedy, younger day Thneed-mongering and ecology-cruelling defiance of the Lorax (Danny DeVito), Ted’s determination to bring back a Truffula Tree comes to be shaped as much by environmental concern as by his romantic interest.

Friday 7 September 2012

A Woman of Mars by Helen Patrice – reviewed by Stephen Theaker

A Woman of Mars, by Helen Patrice (hb, 48pp, available here) is the sixth collection of poetry from PS Publishing’s Stanza imprint, telling the story of a fifteen year-old girl who falls for a handsome twenty-six year-old astronaut—“Only from within his eyes, / did I see clear / for the first time, / a future of steel and stars” (“The Stirring”)—and travels to Mars in the spaceship he pilots to join the founding of a colony. Hence the subtitle: the poems of an early homesteader. The story it tells, of dust storms, disasters and terraforming, isn’t particularly novel, but its point of view is, as shown by the title: she’s a woman of Mars, not a princess, warlord or god; it’s the story of what a normal life might be like, lived on Mars, coping with life and with death, and the subtitle suggests that these are not just poems about her, they are to be taken as poems by her. Not every poem is in the first person—“Buried”, for example, imagines a series of messages sent out to Station five during a sandstorm (“Mining station five, / the storm is abating. / What is your status?”)—but most are, and we see both old and new Mars through the prism of her life and relationships.

Monday 3 September 2012

Brave – reviewed by Jacob Edwards

And so the spoils…Brave, directed by Brenda Chapman, then Mark Andrews.

Tenth century Scotland is ruled by King Fergus of the Clan DunBroch, but remains united largely through the diplomatic nous of his wife, Queen Elinor, who keeps the high-spirited squabbling of Fergus and his three most powerful allies (Lords MacGuffin, Macintosh and Dingwall) from escalating into pride-fuelled clan warfare. Elinor is schooling her teenage daughter, the Princess Merida, in the ways of queenliness, but Merida is as independent as her hair is red, and when she baulks at the prospect of being married off to whichever of the three clans’ firstborn sons should compete for her least ineptly in a betrothal contest, there develops between she and Elinor a mother/daughter rift that threatens not only the happiness of the Clan DunBroch but also the sanctity of Scottish traditions, upon which balance (somewhat precariously) the brotherly affections and rivalry that define Fergus and his fellow clan leaders. Merida hot-headedly bargains with a witch to “change” her mother, but must then deal with the consequences of that (over-literal) change and put things right before the scrambled yolk of second dawn breaks its permanency upon her wish.