Monday 25 January 2016

Terminator Genisys, by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier (Paramount) | review

Tirmynator Genisys: the best misspelling since slyced bred.

Yes, let’s start with the obvious gripe: Genisys. Originally the film was titled Genesis, then someone made the executive decision (absolute power corrupting absolutely) to change/distort/pervert it, presumably working under the delusion that misspelling something makes it stand out in a good way. One wonders how the original Terminator would have fared had Sarah Connor been misspelled in Skynet’s records. The T-1000 would have opened up the phone directory and had a meltdown. Where is S’air-a Conher? Target cannot be acquired. And why? (We bang our heads against the nearest busborne billboard.) Why subscribe to this wanton degradation of language? The only explanation that doesn’t leave the producers hanging their heads in shame is that the alphabetic disparity between Genesis and Genisys is intended to mirror the narrative disparity between the events of the first Terminator movie and their retrofitting in this latest offering. In which case, well played… but a propensity for randomising still seems the more likely cause! Watch out for Terminator 6, where Skynet, unable to destroy humanity by conventional means, sends a T-3000 back to 12 May 1754 to kill Samuel Johnson. Without his dictionary to unite them, the Resistance of the future is torn apart by wilful misspellings.

Friday 22 January 2016

The Glorkian Warrior and the Mustache of Destiny, by James Kochalka (First Second) | review

The funniest idiot since Groo the Wanderer returns for his third “adventure”. That is to say, he has a nightmare about a giant moustache, decides that he has invented a talking coffee cup, gets headbutted by a bunch of armless baby would-be Glorkian Warriors, and falls down a big hole. Later, he falls down another hole and meets the book’s villain, Quackaboodle the Space God! (Although I have my qualms about the behaviour of the Glorkian Supergrandma too.) This is just as funny as the previous two books, the stupidity reaching absolutely glorious levels, e.g. the four baby Glorks saying, “Can Gonk do this?” and “Can Doonkies do thats?” and “May Crazy Face?” and then “Cans Bronk bronk bronk?” In context it’s funny, trust me, on this if nothing else. And while we’re talking about glorious, you should see the colours in this book. You know that nonsense about using 10% of your brain? The art in this book makes you feel like you’ve only been using 10% of your eyes. A thank you page at the end makes it sound like this may be the last in the series. Let’s hope not. I could keep reading these forever. It’s not out till March 2016, so don’t let your children grow up too fast. Stephen Theaker *****

Monday 18 January 2016

Doctor Who: City of Death by Douglas Adams and James Goss (BBC Books) | review

The gamble with time – playing the odds of authorship.

Douglas Adams’ involvement with Doctor Who is… complicated. For many years the three scripts he wrote were lamented as being very good (City of Death), very bad (The Pirate Planet), very good and bad in a Schrödinger’s cat kind of way (the unfinished, unbroadcast Shada), and in all cases very much and quite pointedly so, unnovelised. Adams did write a fourth script, which was novelised, but that was Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen, which upon being rejected by the Doctor Who production team eventually lost the Doctor and regenerated into Adams’ third Hitchhiker’s novel, Life, the Universe and Everything. In a similar vein, City of Death and Shada weren’t entirely unnovelised: significant portions of them found their way into Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. But these caveats aside, of all the authors whose stories could have disappeared into the time void, it was Adams alone (okay, and two of Eric Saward’s scripts; not such a great loss) whose Who output was destined not to line the bookshelves of fans most eager to devour it. Adams wouldn’t accept the pittance being offered by Target Books; nor, especially after he’d cherry-picked from them himself, would he allow his scripts to be novelised by someone else. End of story.

Friday 15 January 2016

Theaker's Quarterly Fiction #53 is out now: free ebook, cheap in print

free pdf | free epub | free mobi | print UK | print US | Kindle UK | Kindle US

You have waited so long for this, but now the wait is over!

Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #53 contains three fantastic stories. In “Restitution” Mitchell Edgeworth takes us back to the Black Swan, its crew double-crossed by the thief Nisha. In “Dodge Sidestep’s (and Martin’s) Final Dastardly Plan” regular TQF cover artist Howard Watts completes his absurdist musical trilogy. And “Rathfern’s Menagerie” is a bodyswapping science fantasy from Allen Ashley. The issue also contains fifty pages of reviews by Jacob Edwards, Douglas Ogurek and Stephen Theaker.

We review work by Adam Warren, Alastair Reynolds, Aliette de Bodard, Andrew Cartmel, Brian K. Vaughan, Cate Gardner, Disasterpeace, Geoff Johns, Greg Pak, Ian Edginton, Ian Marter, J.M. DeMatteis, James Goss, James Kochalka, Jean-Claude Forest, John Dorney, John Logan, Justin Richards, Keith Giffen, Kurt Busiek, Laeta Kalogridis, Lavie Tidhar, Mario Alberti, Paul Magrs, Rare, Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, Simon Guerrier, Steve Yeowell, Vaughan Stanger, Volition Software and others.

We’re sorry again that it is so late, but here it is at last! Possibly the only publication in the world in which you can read positive reviews of not one but two of Adam Sandler’s recent films.

Here are the kindly contributors to this issue:

Allen Ashley works as a writer, poet, editor, critical reader, event host and writing tutor. He runs five creative writing groups in north London including the advanced group Clockhouse London Writers. His most recent books are as editor of Sensorama: Stories of the Senses (Eibonvale Press) and Creeping Crawlers (Shadow Publishing). He contributes a short story, “Rathfern’s Menagerie”, to this issue.

Douglas J. Ogurek’s work has appeared in the BFS Journal, The Literary Review, Morpheus Tales, Gone Lawn, and several anthologies. He lives in a Chicago suburb with the woman whose husband he is and their pit bull Phlegmpus Bilesnot. Douglas’s website can be found at: In this issue he reviews The Gallows and Pixels.

Howard Watts is a writer, artist and composer living in Seaford who also provides both a story, “Dodge Sidestep’s (and Martin’s) Final Dastardly Plan”, and the cover art for this issue. His artwork can be seen in its native resolution on his deviantart page: His novel The Master of Clouds is now available on Kindle.

Jacob Edwards also writes 42-word reviews for Derelict Space Sheep. This writer, poet and recovering lexiphanicist’s website is at He also has a Facebook page at, where he posts poems and the occasional oddity. Like him and follow him! In this issue he reviews Doctor Who: City of Death and Terminator Genisys.

Mitchell Edgeworth’s previous stories in the Black Swan series were “Homecoming” (TQF40), “Drydock” (TQF42), “Flight” (TQF43), “Customs” (TQF46), “Abandon” (TQF47) and “Heritage” (TQF50). This issue the saga continues with “Restitution”. He keeps a blog at

Stephen Theaker’s reviews have appeared in Black Static, Interzone, Prism and the BFS Journal, as well as clogging up our pages. He shares his home with three slightly smaller Theakers, runs the British Fantasy Awards, and works in legal and medical publishing. In this issue he reviews work by Paul Magrs, Ian Marter, Lavie Tidhar, Cate Gardner, Vaughan Stanger, Aliette de Bodard, Alastair Reynolds, Adam Warren, James Kochalka and many more.

As ever, all back issues of Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction are available for free download.

Monday 11 January 2016

The Bureau of Them, by Cate Gardner (Spectral Press) | review

Glynn has been dead for thirteen months, twelve days, seven hours and some minutes, and Katy can’t stop missing him, can’t move on with her life. She doesn’t want to. He walked out in front of a coach, so there’s no doubt about his passing, but she thinks she sees him watching her, and these brief glimpses lead her to an abandoned office building, where dust and shadows move with uncanny life. Glynn has become part of this office of lost souls, the bureau of them, and they are looking for new recruits! As in previous books like In the Broken Birdcage of Kathleen Fair and Nowhere Hall Cate Gardner creates an eerie atmosphere that serves the story well, and Katy’s grief is painful to watch. For me it was a bit disappointing that there wasn’t more bureaucracy in the novella, the title conjuring up visions of weird, secret officialdom working behind the scenes of reality, and that isn’t really what it’s about, the office here being more of a base than where the work is done. (I’m trying to avoid giving too much away.) The novella’s spell is broken a bit by a couple of jarring production problems: “may” being used instead of “might” all the way through, and (in the ebook at least) unspaced hyphens being used in place of dashes, which leaves the reader trying to make sense of odd hyphenates (e.g. “Sounds echoed from within the cinema-tinny”). Definitely worth reading, though. No other writer I’ve read is producing books that remind me so very much of my own bad dreams. If Cate Gardner’s next book is about being lost in a spooky school without a timetable you’ll know she’s stolen my dream journal. Stephen Theaker ***

Favourites of 2016

Here are a few of my favourite fantastical things from last year, jotted down without too much thought and deliberation. If you reckon I've forgotten something, let me know in the comments! Additional categories may be added to the post at a later date.

Comic: The Glorkian Warrior and the Mustache of Destiny by James Kochalka. Delightful idiocy. (Out in March 2016.) [Link]

Television: Fargo, Season 2. There was so much great tv to watch last year, but I think this was my favourite. Not going to explain why it fits on this blog, you'll just need to watch it.

Game: Fallout 3. I finished the main mission ages ago, but last year I picked it up again and played through all the expansion packs. I also had a lot of fun with Saints Row: Re-Elected and Shadows of Mordor.

Book: Black Gods Kiss by Lavie Tidhar. Brilliant collection of fantasy novellas about a really shady guy. [Link]

Podcast: The Adventure Zone. Absolutely hilarious, and takes me right back to roleplaying as a teenager, when I would invariably end up laughing so much I couldn't play any more. [Link]

Film: I can't choose between Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Mad Max: Fury Road. No, you know what, I can, it's Star Wars. I just remembered the bit where the stormtroopers back away from Kylo Ren's tantrum.

Actor: A tie between Eva Green in Penny Dreadful and Andrew Lincoln in The Walking Dead. They add so much to those shows, portraying characters pushed beyond ordinary human limits.

Album: Central Belters by Mogwai. Yes, it's a compilation, but it's probably the best compilation ever. You won't find a better album to soundtrack your writing or reading.

Come on 2016. Let's see what you can do!

Wednesday 6 January 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens | review by Douglas J. Ogurek

This one lives up to the fever.

An acquaintance of mine arrived at Star Wars: The Force Awakens while in the throes of a fever. Director J.J. Abrams had a daunting task: to cut through this individual’s nausea, back pain, and somewhat clouded mental capacity. Plus this acquaintance wasn’t the brightest lightsaber in the bunch; what kind of guy goes to the theatre sick?

Friday 1 January 2016

Book notes: The Chimpanzee Complex, The Whispering Swarm, and more

The Agonizing Resurrection of Victor Frankenstein (Subterranean Press) by Thomas Ligotti. Short-shorts that put alternative spins on well-known stories. ***

The Chimpanzee Complex: Paradox (Cinebook) by Richard Marazano and Jean-Michel Ponzio. An astronaut looking forward to reassignment, and spending more time with her daughter, is required back in space after the astronauts from Apollo 11 splash down – again. The year is 2035. The story is intriguing, reminding me of the first Quatermass Experiment. The art is a bit unusual, looking to me a bit like it’s been drawn over photographs, but I got to like it. ***

The Dirty Dozen: The Best 12 Commando Books Ever! (Carlton Publishing Group), edited by George Low. Took me a long time to finish this one. For our overseas readers who haven’t heard of Commando, it’s a small squarish comic of about sixty pages, with a couple of panels per page, telling lots of stories about World War Two, very much in the style of British war films. The stories in this collection are a mixed bag, some tedious, some thrilling. The highlight for me was “Battle-Wagon”, about the rivalry between two teams of supply truck drivers racing for the same destination. ***

The Great Bazaar & Brayan’s Gold (Tachyon Publications) by Peter V. Brett. A courier travels through mountains haunted by rock demons, and tries to recover precious pottery from a village abandoned to sand demons. Enjoyable enough. My review appeared in Interzone #259. ***

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Primary Phase (BBC Audio) by Douglas Adams. Audible edition collecting the Radio 4 series that started it all. Seems strange that I listened to this for the first time so long after watching the television series, reading the books, watching the the film and listening to the audiobook read by Stephen Fry, but the jokes still made me laugh. It had never clicked before that the extracts from the Guide had originally served as introductions and recaps for each episodes. Very much looking forward to the next three phases. *****

The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate (Subterranean Press) by Ted Chiang. An alchemist tells a merchant a series of stories about the people who have used his magical gate – one side takes you into the past, the other into the future. It’s a stylish and clever take on the style of the Arabian Nights. ****

The Whispering Swarm (Tor Books) by Michael Moorcock. A character called Michael Moorcock becomes a professional writer, while cheating on his wife and making regular visits to an abbey connected to all time and space by way of the moonbeam road. It’s a fascinating book, but as a novel it slumps badly in the middle before ending well. Maybe they should have sold it as an autobiography and let the fantasy elements come as a surprise. Reviewed for Interzone #258. ***

Thorgal: The Guardian of the Keys (Cinebook) by Grzegorz Rosinski and Jean Van Hamme. Volsung of Nichor steals Thorgal’s identity and takes his place among the Vikings. Invincible, thanks to a belt cruelly stolen from the guardian of the keys (it’s the only bit of clothing she has!), he begins to murder his way to the kingship. ***

Tortured Souls: The Legend of Primordium (Subterranean Press) by Clive Barker. This collects short stories that originally appeared in the packaging of a series of action figures, so it’s a bit disjointed, but I liked the idea that on Sunday God, rather than resting, made all the monsters. ***

Trekker Omnibus (Dark Horse Books) by Ron Randalland Jim Gibbons. Decent series about a bounty hunter in very tight trousers. A mix of colour and black-and-white stories. ***

Usagi Yojimbo Saga, Vol. 1 (Dark Horse Books) by Stan Sakai. The adventures of a ronin – a masterless samurai – with a conscience. So brilliant even the appearance of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles couldn’t harm it. Poetry in every panel. *****

Welcome to Just a Minute! A Celebration of Britain’s Best-Loved Radio Comedy (Canongate Books) by Nicholas Parsons. Read in a single day! Fascinating anecdotes of tetchiness, bitchiness and no little affection among the Just a Minute regulars. Almost enough to make me forgive Parsons for the time we took the children to his supposedly PG-rated Edinburgh show. You can’t trust anyone these days! ****