Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Best Sci-Fi TV of All Time Tournament Bracket (Round of 4)

The Round of 8 was, without a doubt, the round with the most gnashing of teeth, and probably even tears, of any so far. For this was the round where Doctor Who faced off against Firefly.

Thousands of votes were cast (thank you, everybody), and ultimately, by only a half a percentage point, it was decided that Serenity would keep flying. (Insert wild celebration/screams of rage as you will).

Now in this Round of 4, you must face another impossible choice: Kirk & Spock vs. Picard & Riker. Is Star Trek: The Next Generation a better show than the one that begat all others, Star Trek? It's your call. But it is certain that an entry from the Star Trek franchise will face off against either Firefly or the Battlestar Galactica reboot in the Finals.

Some housekeeping: to see the results of previous rounds, click here. To review the utterly unscientific criteria used to delineate the Classic from Modern regions, check out the Round of 32 post. Many Reddit users pointed out that I had the order of the matches in the first round out-of-order, which I have consistently acknowledged, and apologize for once again. And for those of you who vitriolically demanded a larger image of the bracket, your wish has been granted.

Now, have fun, and on with the voting!

CLASSIC FINAL

MODERN FINAL

Check back next week for the Final Round!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

AiIP: Self-Promotion Theater

You may have heard I am nearing the end of a Kickstarter campaign for a print run of my short story collection, 3024AD. I have detailed the reasons for that in this space before- in short, that the current common thinking, particularly for author-publishers, doesn't allow for any manner of distribution to brick-and-mortar bookstores. So I have partnered with Village Books in order to try a new model- one that supports them, and me, and opens the door for wider physical distribution.

The campaign- as of this writing- sits at $1,095 of the $2,000 goal, so your support is very much appreciated.

Only a couple days to back the Kickstarter!
But why should you support it? It's not as if there's a dearth of indie-published sci-fi out there. So, in the interest of salesmanship and self-promotion (two things I am generally terrible at), why you should:

It's Good Sci-Fi: I'm only being a little egotistical. It won Indie Book of the Year from The Cult Den last year, so it's not just my mom saying that. It's a unique story, told in a unique way and fairly universally those who have read it love it.

It's Cheap: Once it hits bookshelves, the physical copy is going to be $14.99 and the ebook $7.99. You can grab both for $10, and get a bunch of fun swag for a bit more. Or you can buy two for $15 and give one to a friend/library/whatever.

It's About More Than Me: I can't do it for everyone, obviously, nor do I want to, but for the author-publishers out there who take the time and effort to produce a high-quality product, opening the doors to partnerships and distribution in indie bookstores is a pretty huge deal. Right now, it involves calling or visiting every single one. As this evolves, I am hoping to see (at a minimum) a sort of co-op grow to where booksellers know they're getting a quality product and authors are getting support from influential literary centers. Printing enough copies of my own is the first step in the process.

Crowdfunding is Awesome: At least, I think so. You're a part of the process, privy to advance information and get stuff that isn't otherwise available. I love the process, and hope you'll support mine.

So there you have it- a few reasons to head over and pledge. Thanks in advance!

-DESR

PS in the event you're sick of hearing about me, next month will feature other authors, and some interviews.

Dean is the author of the 3024AD series of science fiction stories. You can read his other ramblings and musings on a variety of topics (mostly writing) on his blog.
  He is also an aficionado of good drinks (extra dry martini; onions, not olives), good food and fine dress. When not holed up in his office tweeting obnoxiously writing, he can be found watching or playing sports, or in his natural habitat of a bookstore.
  He also has an unhealthy obsession with old movies and goes through phases where he plays video games before kind of forgetting they exist.
  Dean lives in the Pacific Northwest and likes the rain, thank you very much.

Madden NFL 25

[Madden NFL 25, EA Tiburon, EA Sports, 2013]

 A vast improvement

To start off with, I'll admit two things. First, I'm not the biggest sports gamer on the planet. I love going to live sporting events and I'm a die-hard Oklahoma State Cowboys fan (My alma mater), but the games normally don't do it for me. Second, I haven't played a Madden game since 2008. That game was so bad that I swore them off for quite a while and this is the first one I've picked up since. That said, I'm really glad that I did. It's been a fun change of pace from my normal sci-fi titles and wasn't a huge disappointment like my last experience with the franchise. 


So what's new? 

As I said before, I haven't played Madden in several years, but this game has several new additions from the last iteration I experienced. First of all, you can choose to play as a specific player, a coach, or lead the franchise as an owner. I chose the coaching option as it is the closest to the traditional Madden format. You can switch between players on defense and take over for running backs and receivers when they get the ball in this mode. I tried the player mode and it just wasn't as fun to be stuck in the shoes of a single player. I didn't have time to experience the owner mode, but I really like playing the game itself rather than acting as a front office manager, so it didn't interest me as much as the coaching mode.


There were all sorts of new gameplay additions, more than half of which I probably didn't use. I had enough trouble just picking out receivers without learning all of the new jukes, spins, and leaps that were available to ball carriers, but they were there for the die-hard Maddenite. Choosing plays was made up of a well-oiled mechanic that gave you an initial option for a single play right off the bat. If you didn't like that, you could choose "Ask Madden," which would give you three options for plays that fit the scenario. If none of those were to your liking, you could choose plays by type or formation. I'm not a football guru so I used Madden's suggestions about half the time. The rest of the plays I chose by type, often going with a play action pass or shotgun formation. The options of play type were plentiful with something like 70 different run plays, 90-plus passes, and multiple special formations including QB kneel or quarterback sneak. Whatever your style of play, there was a quick and easy way to choose the option you preferred. 


truly gorgeous

As you can probably tell from these actual screenshots, the game itself was a sight to behold. The graphics are easily the best I've ever experienced in a sports game. While that may not be saying much as I'm not a huge sports game buff, they were easily the equal of some of the more attractive other games out there like Assassin's Creed or Tomb Raider. Even though this game came out last summer and is just a port to my Xbox One, they obviously upscaled it somewhat to the new generation of consoles. Even though I may not be a sports game aficionado, I am a real-life sports fan and some of the replays looked as good as the real thing. During load screens they showed various previous versions of Madden's last 25 years and, although sometimes laughable, it gave a good impression of how far the game has come in its quarter century of sports game dominance. While 2008 felt like EA was just resting on its laurels, Madden NFL 25 made me believe that Electronic Arts really put a lot of effort and money into their silver anniversary edition. 


So, how'd you do?

Being a relative amateur when it comes to the sports game oeuvre, I chose to play the season on Easy so I wouldn't get frustrated and give up halfway through. That's likely the reason I ended up 19-1 and a Super Bowl Champion. I chose to play with the Dallas Cowboys, mainly because of Oklahoma State alum Dez Bryant and his on-field acrobatics as well as their close proximity to my home state. I'll freely admit I don't care for Tony Romo and I'm a college sports fan who generally ignores most pro sports other than the NFL. That said, Madden's ability to use the actual player names and playbooks makes it superior to NCAA in this gamer's humble opinion. Some of the awful names they come up with for "amateur" athletes that appear in college sports games just drive me nuts. I understand the necessity of it, but that doesn't make it an easier pill to swallow. 


My only loss in the game came at the hands of Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Peyton is rated a 97 in the game making nearly every ball he threw up a strike on a frozen rope. However, I was able to get my revenge on him in the snow in New Jersey at the Super Bowl, winning 24-21. Although it didn't give me quite as much pleasure as defeating Handsome Jack in Borderlands 2 or Glados in Portal, it was still a nice little endorphin rush when I managed to overcome the seemingly invincible quarterback in the ice bowl. 


Final Thoughts

I realize this is a nerd blog, so even though its a game the very fact that this is sports-related makes it a stretch as subject matter for Nerds of a Feather. However, if you're looking to get a sports game for a nice change of pace, I can't think of a better place to start than Madden NFL 25. Pro football has overtaken baseball as America's game of choice and Madden is the video game equivalent of its crown jewel. Although it may have slacked off a bit in recent years, Madden 25 brings it roaring back. I can easily recommend it to either the casual sports gamer or die-hards that own everything from FIFA to NCAA 2013. I was a bit skeptical when I decided to give the franchise another try, but I'm glad that did. While I probably won't continue on into a second season, the game was well worth playing through the first. If you haven't played a sports game for some time like myself, give Madden NFL 25 a try. You won't be disappointed. 


the math

Objective Score: 7/10

Bonuses: +1 for being a superb sports simulator. +1 for surpassing my expectations completely.

Penalties: -1 for not really fitting into the "nerd" mold, since it's sports-related.

Nerd Coefficient: 8/10. Well worth your time and attention. 







Monday, April 14, 2014

Shadowrun Returns!

As S. C. Barrus wrote in a guest post, crowdfunding has facilitated the re-emergence of the isometric RPG as a viable market segment in the crowded field of video games. Though primarily developed for PC/Mac, tablets are a natural home for these games. After all, most can be programmed by a relatively small group of developers (and thus sold for a pricepoint mobile gamers will tolerate), while featuring point-and-click gameplay that translates well to multitouch and doesn't require a hell of a lot of computing power to run smoothly. And the consumers these games target--nostalgic 30-somethings who want to relive a 90s gameplay experience--are, as far as I can see, slowly gravitating away from attention-requiring console or PC gaming and towards something that better fits a life defined by constant multitasking. Shadowrun Returns, then, seems a perfect fit for iOS and Android--and, indeed, most elements of the 2013 PC/Mac hit translate well. More on that in a bit. First, though, some background...

The '90s ruled, man
Shadowrun Returns is based on the famous pen-and-paper RPG Shadowrun, as well as the legendary 1993 isometric adaptation for SNES. The basic premise of Shadowrun is to put AD&D races/classes into a near-future cyberpunk universe, so that elves, trolls, shamans and mages quest alongside "runners" (people who go on "dungeon" crawls in corporate offices) and "deckers" (people who hack into "the matrix").

The original iterations produced remarkably balanced and deep gameplay, but 2007's ill-fated attempt to turn extract a console FPS out of the beloved franchise sparked anger and consternation among fans clamoring for something more faithful to the original vision. Enter Jordan Weisman, developer of the pen-and-paper game (as well as Heroclix and BattleTech), and Kickstarter. One year and $1.8 million in donations later, Weisman's studio Harebrained Games released Shadowrun Returns for PC/Mac. By the end of 2013, an iOS version hit the market.

...with elves!
Shadowrun Returns is, like the 1993 SNES classic, a true isometric RPG--featuring turn-based squad combat, highly customizable character classes, balanced gameplay and a well-developed and engaging story. Rather than attempt a modernization, Harebrained smartly doubled-down on the early 90s cyberpunk nostalgia--evident in everything from character hairstyles to the goofy drum-n-bass music triggered by combat. The result is a highly enjoyable, addictive experience that hits the right note of nostalgia for life-long Shadowrun fans, as well as those who, like me, cut their teeth on PC games during the 90s (and 80s).


On the other hand...

There are, however, some issues I'd like Hairbrained to address in the sequel. First off, I experienced some stability issues: freezing, crashing and so forth. After some online consultation, I learned that these could be mitigated by putting the iPad on airplane mode and closing all other apps. It did work, but eh...this kind of thing should have been dealt with in beta, no?

Of course, that might have just been a minor annoyance if it weren't for the game's frustrating "checkpoint only" save system. I guess the PC/Mac version has already been patched to allow for quick saving, but iOS has not. Though Shadowrun Returns is not a large game, a few of the levels could have benefited from some extra checkpoints--especially considering the game's propensity to crash. Going back and replaying 30+ minutes five times and not by choice is retro in the wrong way.


It's a testament to how fun this game is, though, that I didn't quit in frustration. I found myself thinking about the game when I wasn't playing, and waking up an extra half hour early so I could get a level in before the day began. Last game I did that for was Skyrim, and that's basically my favorite video game ever.

See, Shadowrun Returns isn't perfect, but it's a hell of a good time, and a great way to relive the good old days without the crappy hardware.


Tips and Vitals

If you decide to buy a copy of Shadowrun Returns, you may naturally wonder whether it's better on PC/Mac or iOS/Android. I can't speak to the PC/Mac version, but I will say that the touch interface was solid but at times less responsive than I would have liked. And I do think a two-button mouse would have come in handy. On the other hand, I spend most of the day hunched over in front of a computer screen. When relaxing, I prefer to be on the couch, with my feet up and either a controller or mobile device in my hands. So in that sense the trade-off worked in my favor; the iOS port is definitely good enough to justify not sitting at a computer desk.

After committing to iOS/Android, though, there's still the question of phone vs. tablet. Some games naturally work better on one or the other (e.g. FPS on phone; adventure games on tablet). Bottom line, I think Shadowrun Returns is clearly made for tablets, and would feel cramped on a phone. But maybe that's just my fat thumbs talking.

Once you've gone procured the game and fired it up, you are faced with a host of character creation questions. My character, "Nerd," was officially a shaman (dude who can summon creatures under certain conditions) but was fairly balanced between summoning, decking and the use of ranged weapons. I also made him a tank, which helped a lot towards the end of the game. By the time you can select your own party, however, you realize that the easiest rode involves balance among characters, rather than within them.

Badass.
It's okay to be a jack-of-all-trades, as I was, but every party needs one straight up soldier (armed with a shotgun, which is immensely overpowered). Coyote, who you meet in the course of the game, will do for this role--so keep her close. And it's vital you hire a decker--unless you are one yourself. I also found support mages useful for the fourth and final slot--someone who can up your accuracy, lay down fire or lightning fields if you get attacked from both sides and, crucially, heal squadmates without spending precious medpacks. Conversely, I found specialized shamans and assassins basically worthless.

Oh, and one other piece of advice: defensive tactics are your friend, particularly in the matrix.

Enjoy the ride, chummers...


The Math

Baseline Assessment: 8/10

Bonuses: +1 for balanced, lively isometric retro; +1 for the 90s are back, man!

Penalties: -1 for stability issues; -1 for stupid checkout-only save system.

Nerd Coefficient: 8/10. "Well worth your time and attention."

Friday, April 11, 2014

Best Sci-Fi TV of All Time Tournament Bracket (Round of 8)

VOTING FOR THE ROUND OF 8 HAS ENDED. CLICK HERE TO VOTE ON THE NEXT ROUND.

The basketball tournaments have finished (congratulations, Connecticut men, women), but things are just heating up for us sci-fi nerds. We've reached the Round of 8 in the fan-voted poll of the Greatest Sci-Fi TV Show of All-Time. (Previous rounds here)

There are some tough matchups in these four games.* Will the Whohards and Fireflickians battle to the death to see which show is better? Or just stuff the ballot box? Star Trek: The Next Generation continued its blistering run through its region and beat my pick, The Twilight Zone, handily. I was surprised how brutally The X-Files crushed Lost (by almost 60 percentage points), but can it steamroll fan-darling Battlestar Galactica? Our top vote-getter in this round was Star Trek, but can it be upset by Twin Peaks, the little-engine-that-could who people said didn't even belong in this bracket?


All of these questions and more (or actually, just these questions) will be answered in a few days. So get voting!

CLASSIC NORTH
CLASSIC SOUTH
MODERN NORTH
MODERN SOUTH


*Reddit users once again pointed out that I goofed the order of the initial round's games. I get it, I get it. But there's not "Ctrl-Z" in life, sadly.

Best of All of Us: Year Two

Today we nerds of a feather celebrate our second anniversary! It's been real--and at times surreal. But it's always been fun, thanks the the crew of smart, interesting and generally likeable people Vance and I have enticed, sweet-talked, cajoled and coerced into contributing to the site. We now have a grand total of 10 (10!) regular writers, including ourselves--not to mention the individuals who have generously donated their time and thoughts as guest writers and interview subjects (more on them next week). For now, though, to celebrate, I thought I'd compile the Best of All of Us: Year Two (regular contributors edition). For each writer, I provide the most popular post since April 11, 2013 and my personal favorite. And for those who have been with us since the beginning, you can note that I've put our contributors in the order by which they joined.

Oh, and how could I forget? Thanks to all everyone--readers, fellow bloggers, authors, filmmakers and so forth--who have supported and continue to support us as we go forward. You are what makes this whole project special to all of us, and for that we are eternally grateful. 

Now, on to Best of All of Us: Year Two... 

-The G



The G

Most Popular: Draft Hugo Ballot 2014 (1/22/14)

Favorite: True Detective Conquers All (3/11/14)

The Hugos thing was fun to write, as it gave me the chance to heap praise upon some deserving folks. But as far as personal favorites go, well, it's got to be the love letter Philippe and I wrote to the Greatest Television Show Ever. The most fun criticism to write, after all, tends to be that which come from intersections of rational consideration and emotional fervor--either of the proselytizing or righteous condemnation variety. And, frankly, Philippe and I might as well have been hawking "mainlining the secret truth of the universe" tests on Hollywood Blvd. Yet while we might be accused of True Detective zealotry, everything we say about the show is true!
"Sure, True Detective came in familiar packaging--the police procedural, the hardboiled detective story, the hunt for a serial killer, etc. But it kept hinting that it would metamorphose into full-blown horror. There were the little hints sprinkled throughout the season--the recurring patterns, the more-than-coincidental names, the literary references, the signposting. The Yellow King! Carcosa! We grew certain of such things. But in truth, True Detective used the symbolism and iconography of horror to establish its apocalytptic atmosphere. This is noir, pure and simple, a small-scale holocaust of the human soul--Lovecraft without the tentacled bodies; Revelations without the horsemen."


Vance

Most Popular: Beer and Sci-Fi Pairings (3/25/14)

Favorite: Spurs to Spandex: Why Westerns Died and Superheros Fly (5/13/14)

Vance's pairing of craft beers to speculative/SF television programs has become our all-time most popular post. But while its awesomeness cannot be denied, I nevertheless prefer the essay where he relates the shift in Hollywood film archetypes, from the gunslinging cowboy to the superpowered vigilante, to changes in how Americans view the society they live in, their socio-economic prospects and the attainability of "the American Dream." It's probably the most serious thing we've ever published, and by extension, might be the best.
"But reality has begun to approximate this magical aspect of our daily narrative. Peter Parker, Steve Rogers, Harry Potter, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, Snooki, and all of the Kardashians share one thing in common: they were unknown, regular people who had something inside of them just waiting to be discovered and exploited on a larger stage. They were destined for greatness. We watch reality TV and Superhero Movies wishing that someone would see past our own humble situations, recognize our latent talent or nobility, and lift us out of our everyday lives."




Molly

Most Popular: Comic Con from Afar -- Second Annual Lamentation (7/23/13)

Favorite: Ender's Game: Heart But No Smarts (11/4/13)

Every year Molly compiles the best intel and video footage from San Diego Comic-Con--wishing from afar that she were there. It's something I've come to look forward to in July. But my favorite post of hers has to be this conflicted review of the Ender's Game film adaptation. See, like me, Molly finds Orson Scott Card's political activism nauseating. Unlike me, though, she loves the Ender novels. This review is thus both a fan confronting a flawed adaptation of a treasured book and a fan navigating difficult questions of whether art can be separated from the artist.
"The movie left out pretty much all the thinkier parts of the book - the entire subplot of Peter/Locke and Valentine/Demosthenes manipulating the politics on Earth, the complex strategies in the battle room, and the denser moral debate on xenophobia. For the most part, it was ok to me that the movie was a heavy-handed spectacle, because that's how Ender's Game the book fits into the rest of the Enderverse: it's a prequel, a flashy podracery bit of awesome that appeals to our baser, pubescent tastes of violence and space war."




Mikey

Most Popular: Tales from a Board Gaming Convention: Geekway to the West (5/16/13)

Favorite: Tales from a Board Gaming Convention: Geekway to the West (5/16/13)

Mikey does a lot of things for this site--including his weekly (must read) roundup of new comics. But his con coverage just can't be beat--and this assessment of five wholly different but equally compelling board games convinced me to bust out the Catan box and get that wood-for-sheep business going again. Next time I'm in Mikey's neck of the woods, you know I'm dropping by for a session of Space Alert (which I really, really need to get my hands on, by the way).



"Space Alert is a real-time, cooperative game in which you assume the role of a crewman of a spaceship stranded in an asteroid field.  As a team you work together through a series of rounds as dictated by a CD that takes you through a 10 minute senario. During these frantic 10 minutes, the players all play their actions face down and communicate to one another what steps they are taking. Whether you are giggling the mouse to keep the computer from falling asleep to firing lasers at a target you hope is in range, you won't know if you were successful until you resolve everything upon completion of the CD."


Philippe

Most Popular: Microreview [book]: The Revisionists (7/10/13)

Favorite: Man...or Astroman? (And some stuff about the nineties, Bakersfield, and sci-fi) (5/10/13)

Philippe's posts often have an nostalgic air, drawing lines between the products of geekdom and his personal journey through three decades of nerd culture. While I love his reviews, this piece about the retrofuturist surf band Man...or Astroman? really hits the spot for me. It's funny, personal and skewers the inauthenticity of today's endlessly cycling nostalgias. Plus it's about an awesome band. 

"The nineties had little of today’s triumphalism, the constant lauding of how awesome and connected things are today. Networks and such. This is an era that has little time for the past. The past is still mined—we’ve gone through the eighties over the last few years—without the conscious, often celebratory nostalgia that accompanied nineties retro. Is anyone actually looking longingly at the eighties? Nineties surf bands with sci-fi personas were homages to a simpler time."



Jemmy

Most Popular: Microreview [book]: The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch (8/19/13)

Favorite: All Hail the Black Company! (11/5/13)

Jemmy's review of Scott Lynch's latest swashbuckler has been a huge hit for us--and is slated to appear in in Speculative Fiction 2013, an anthology of the best blog commentary on SF/F. However, I'd argue that Jemmy's paean to Glen Cook's gritty "band of brothers"-style fantasy series is far and away his best work of our second year. I mean, come on--he takes one of the most underrated and important fantasy series of the past 40 years and elevates it to the level of greatness it rightly deserves! And it's beautifully written too.
"Glen Cook's series presaged the darker turn in fantasy--to the grit and darkness that we now tend to associate with writers like Joe Abercrombie, George R.R. Martin, Steven Erikson, Scott Lynch, and Ian Esslemont, to name but a few of the good ones. But Cook's original novel, The Black Company, was written in 1984. That's nearly thirty years ago! Twelve years before A Game of Thrones! So I expected a rather quaint version of grimdark (a quaint pseudo-grit?). After all, wasn't Cook writing in the era of Terry Brooks and David Eddings, when heroes existed to save kittens, pet bunnies, fulfill prophecies, and tell the reader that the world will work out just fine?"


Brad

Most Popular: Tiny Tina's Assault on the Dragon's Keep (7/1/13)

Favorite: Tiny Tina's Assault on the Dragon's Keep (7/1/13)

Brad's series on the various Borderlands expansion packs have been hugely popular, and the game series' goofy humor seems to perfectly fit Brad's own. I routinely laughed out loud, and nowhere more than in his review of Borderlands' send-up of epic fantasy. Plus Bunkers & Badasses.
"Nearly everything...is a melange of Tolkein, Game of Thrones, and D&D, down to the vending machines. Marcus Munitions has become Marcus Missiles and it warns you to, "Watch out for those orcs!" Zed's Apothecary quips, "Have fun storming the tower." There's another reference to a movie I just watched, The Princess Bride. It felt a bit like walking around in Skyrim with corrosive sub-machine guns and missile launchers...."

Dean

Most Popular: AiIP: The Self-Publishing Manifesto (4/15/13)

Favorite: AiIP: Support Your Local Bookstore (even if you buy digitally) (7/15/13)

Dean's self-publishing column is a monthly highlight, and his running series on how indie authors can avoid the Amazon trap has been very informative. My favorite installment is the one where he discusses how indie authors can support local bookstores--even when selling ebooks. Independent bookstores are very important to me, and so this is naturally my personal favorite. 

"I see a lot of authors buying into the Amazon-or-nothing thinking. Amazon has anointed Hugh Howey as the king of self-publishing for his Wool series, including his comments in such places as their GoodReads acquisition press release, wherein he compares Amazon to 'the cool guy next door marrying your mom'...But why at the exclusion of everything else? What possible benefit does that have for the author, the reader or the literary community?"


Zhaoyun

Most Popular: We Rank 'Em: Best Computer (PC) Games of the mid-1990s (8/2/13)

Favorite: Microreview [book]: A Kingdom Besieged by Raymond E. Feist (7/13/13)

This was a tough one for me, because I really like how the 1990s PC game essay captured the nostalgia-seeking mentality of the thirty-something geek (even if I don't agree with all of the individual choices). But as good as it is, Zhaoyun's epic takedown of Raymont E. Feist's mailed-in latest takes the cake for me. The result is highly entertaining, if slightly depressing, and exemplifies what we're trying to do with our review content.
"Weep for Feist—how far he has fallen! How sloppy his writing has become, how formulaic his plots, how uninteresting his characters. My theory? Blame video games. He stopped writing full-time so he could help create several games based on the Midkemia world(s), notably Betrayal at Krondor (excellent) among many others (most of which were utterly forgettable/bad). Unsurprising, given this context, that he...has written less a novel and more a novelization of a game concept: generic characters no reader would identify with who are exposed to a range of uninspired role-playing-esque encounters."



English Scribbler

Most Popular: Microreview [book]: Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor (3/19/14)

Favorite: Microreview [book]: Once Upon A Time In Hell by Guy Adams (12/30/13)

English Scribbler is not only our newest regular contributor, but probably also the funniest. And so I have to bypass his excellent review of Lagoon for the more tongue-in-cheek charms of the review he did of Guy Adams' second B-movie inspired horror/western mashup. I mean, the following quote needs no exposition, does it....

"Sure, I've been to a cowboy boot store in Kansas, I've drunk whisky in Santa Fe and I've successfully panned for gold (in Legoland in Denmark, but it still counts), but I have no right to write such cod Wild West nonsense. I'm sat in a Victorian flat in London wearing a cardigan and sipping ginger tea. The only Westerny things in my eyeline are the 'Dude' in the 'Dude, Where's My Car?' credits on the telly, and the cat's Lee Van Cleef stare. Ok, at the time I wrote the review I was actually sat by the side of the Mekong river so had at least a little Martin Sheen voiceover in my head but that's no excuse. Especially concerning a book written by a Brit with a superb and uncorny usage of Old West lingo."





Thursday, April 10, 2014

Thursday Morning Superhero

The mad dash for hotels at SDCC came and went in a flash on Tuesday and us poor saps hoping for a good hotel can only sit back and wait.  As a distraction before the good or bad news is delivered, I suggest you distract yourself with some quality books.  Daredevil celebrated his 50th anniversary and the great Mark Waid paid tribute, has Negan gone soft, and an impressive debut mashes up Wes Anderson and Sci-fi.  Enjoy!


Pick of the Week:
The Walking Dead #125 - I don't think there is anyone better in the business in delivering a stunning closing panel than Robert Kirkman.  I'll get to that later.  Rick and the Survivors are dealing with the aftermath of the tainted weapons that Negan has used to spread infection in their camp.  On top of that, it appears as if Rick isn't truly infected and that Dwight may be the ally they need.  My favorite moment was when Carl comforted a friend and encouraged him not to get used to the dire situation they are living in.  It is easy to forget the horrors that Carl has faced and he demonstrated his maturity by acknowledging the importance of your past, even if it is painful to revisit.  He is my favorite character in the comic by far.  What started as a relatively calm issue ended in a shocking fashion.  Negan and Rick actually engaged in civil conversation!!!  Negan may not be the monster we all think he truly is.  I won't spoil anything, but this series seems to be taking a turn and I will be there every step of the way.

The Rest:
Shutter #1 - After reading this comic I desperately want Wes Anderson to make a Sci-fi movie.   Shutter is a stunningly beautiful book that manages to squeeze in a compelling first issue that has me itching for the next issue.  Much like a character from a Wes Anderson movie, Kate grew up in a family of explorers, but wasn't sure if the family business was for her.  20 years after her seventh birthday, Kate finds herself in a sticky situation (I don't want to spoil it).  We quickly learn that Kate may not be who she thought and she has much to learn about her family.  An exciting, fast-paced read, Shutter delivers the fun of an action packed Sci-fi epic, with the artistic beauty of a Wes Anderson film.  Me likey.

Star Wars #16 - I will admit that I would be perfectly fine with Brian Wood writing the script for Star Wars VII.  Wood captures the spirit and attitudes of the characters and effectively plays up the political deception that the Rebel and Alliance engage in.  The rebels are on Arrochar, a planet that is facing its own political divide, has an ambitious royalty and a stubborn ranger class that simply want to be left alone.  Leia is set to marry the prince to provide a strategic ally for the Rebellion.  Something tells me it won't go according to plan.  Fans of the original trilogy are doing themselves a disservice if they aren't reading this title.

Daredevil #1.50 - Daredevil celebrated his 50th anniversary this week and Mark Waid delivered a fitting and touching issue.  For this issue we turn to the future and examine the relationship that Daredevil has with his 9-year old son.  It was a sweet issue that spoke to me as a father, but still delivered an interesting premise as 76% of the city, including his son, have suddenly gone blind.  Fun, sweet issue.

Batman: Eternal #1 - Not sure that we need another Batman title, but the good folks at DC rounded up some A-list talent and I was excited to check it out.  Eternal tells the tale of how Batman ended up strapped down, wounded, watching Gotham burn.  One of the darker Batman debuts of recent memory, Eternal looks like it should be an enjoyable read.  I am always weary when a series is authored by such a large cast, but I enjoy the names DC has assembled and will continue to check it out.  This series will feature new issues each week.

POSTED BY MIKE N. -- comic guy, proudly raising nerdy kids, and Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2012.