Friday, December 14, 2012

Movie Review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Movie Review
4.5 out of 5 stars
(Minor spoilers present)

I just watched a midnight showing of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I saw the 2D with my wife, Tammy, as she worried the 3D might give her a headache. I’ll see the 3D tomorrow night and will amend this post with my thoughts comparing the two.

The movie was awesome and I loved it. Fans of the book will really enjoy the experience, as it portrays those iconic scenes in the book brilliantly. Nothing is rushed, and little is left out. Casual fans who don’t love fantasy or who haven’t read the book may find it too long with too much exposition and back-story. The movie clocks in at 2 hours and 40 minutes, and the first hour was mostly set-up. It felt like I was watching the director’s cut, though there are 26 minutes that will be added when the director’s cut comes out, and I do look forward to that. The 2D version was a little blurry in some scenes when the camera panned quickly, but I bet in the 3D version with 48 frames per second that problem will go away.

Fellowship of the Ring (the movie), was better than The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, as a film, and part of that comes from the actual storyline. The Lord of the Rings has a lot more gravitas than The Hobbit, which is why the filmmakers made the three Lord of the Rings films first. The other point is that the characters were more compelling in Lord of the Rings than in The Hobbit, in some ways. Just think about Aragorn, Arwen, Eowyn, Boromir and of course the four awesome Hobbits. There are almost no female characters in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, aside from Lady Galadriel, and that is a problem with the book in general. Still, it’s a pretty fascinating story, despite all the negatives and the nearly identical structure to The Lord of the Rings.

In this movie we have 13 dwarves, and Gandalf, for the most part, on-screen all the time. I love the dwarves, but with so many characters it’s nearly impossible to adequately characterize each of them. I read that Peter Jackson agonized about doing this movie because of all the dwarves. As a writer, I totally understand why this is tough, and can only imagine how difficult it is/was for the filmmakers.

The movie book by Jude Fisher, A Visual Companion to The Hobbit I purchased really did a wonderful job describing the individual dwarves, and I think it helped me as I watched the film, as some dwarves faded into the background on the screen. Tolkien did a pretty poor job of characterizing most of them in the book, aside from Thorin Oakenshield and maybe Balin, but Peter Jackson and company did much better to be sure. I love the book and have read it roughly ten times, but it’s only 300 pages long, and you can only do so much with that sort of page count.

I loved that director Peter Jackson took the time to establish the history of the Lonely Mountain, and to show Bilbo Baggins struggling to decide if he should go on the adventure. The scenes at Bag End are priceless and should entertain almost anyone. The parts that were so much fun in the book are right there on the screen, even some of the songs. The scene where the dwarves sing about the Lonely Mountain is also quite emotionally moving, and it was the first time I got a little teary-eyed during the movie.

The movie opens with old Bilbo, played by Sir Ian Holm, writing his book, “There And Back Again” about his adventures, and we get to see Frodo, played by a very young looking Elijah Wood (digitally made to look younger), as they prepare for Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday party—right out of Fellowship of the Ring. It was pure magic, especially if you’re a big fan of The Lord of the Rings movies as you watch these scenes. Then we get to hear Bilbo speaking about the dwarves and the Lonely Mountain, called Erebor, which has been taken over by the dragon, Smaug. Those scenes were tremendous, seeing the mountain and the town of Dale burned and destroyed.

Now we get a scene right out of the book, using much of the same dialogue from Professor Tolkien. Gandalf arrives and hopes to find Bilbo still excited about exploring the world as he was as a little hobbit. Gandalf is surprised he is not, but goes ahead with his plan, as he is an extremely good judge of character, and knows how to motivate Men, Dwarves, Elves, and even reluctant Hobbits.

The next scenes with the dwarves arriving were magic, and the filmmakers did a great job by not having Thorin Oakenshield arrive until after the silliness was over. Thorin is a serious character and this change from the book, having him arrive later, was perfectly done. When I recently re-read the book, I figured this change would happen.

Overall, Jackson and his team kept to the novel, and let us ease into Middle-earth again. After the Bag End scenes are concluded the long journey truly begins. Certain details were changed regarding the scene with the trolls, but I thought it was great and hilarious. Doing the scene exactly as Tolkien wrote it would have been too silly, and Bilbo takes the main role instead of Gandalf, regarding distracting the trolls. Purists still have the book, but what works on the page doesn’t always work on the big screen.

The next segment was injected with tension, and I won’t spoil it here, but suffice it to say, I enjoyed it very much.

Rivendell was awesome, and so beautiful. Elrond, Galadriel, Saruman and Gandalf have a meeting and it felt like going home to me. Radagast the Brown was mentioned in that meeting, and if I were to choose my least favorite part of the movie, it would be a scene with Radagast where he can’t remember why he’s just traveled hundreds and hundreds of miles. Duh. When Gandalf gave him a toke of Halfling leaf to calm him down I was disappointed even more. The whole beginning of the scene was a little too much for me. I did like all the other scenes with Radagast, though, and liked Saruman’s comment about him.

After Rivendell, the dwarves travel into the mountains, and there’s a rather incredible scene with some stone giants. The scene was mentioned in The Hobbit, but it didn’t feel necessary. It was pretty awesome, if unexplained. I think it could have been left out and probably should have been.

The scenes with the goblins were incredible, and exciting. The dwarves are such great warriors and those were some exciting action scenes. The goblin king was a little too funny for my tastes, but I enjoyed him nonetheless.

Bilbo meeting Gollum was amazing, and the filmmakers changed the way Bilbo finds the One Ring. It worked really well and was not so random as it was in the book. I liked the change. The scene with Bilbo and Gollum is probably the best part of the whole film. Riddles in the Dark was perfect and riveting. Andy Serkis out did himself as Gollum and was better here than in Lord of the Rings. I read the technology for capturing Gollum has gotten better, which explains part of it.

The last part of the movie follows the book, but was amped up about ten notches. The dwarves are chased by the wargs and orcs. With nowhere left to run, they are forced to take refuge in the trees, just like in the book. However, unlike the book, Bilbo manages to climb the tree all by himself, then it gets really thrilling, and scary.

I’m not going to describe the finale here, but suffice it to say, it’s way more exciting than in the novel. There’s danger and drama, and redemption. Bilbo shows his character, and we get a solid ending with a view of what is to come. The movie ended right where I thought it would end, aside from the final teaser. Thank you Mr. Jackson.

This movie, and the teaser scene at the very end whet my appetite for the next film, The Desolation of Smaug, coming December 2013.

I’ll add more to this post later, and plan on writing about Radagast, Dol Guldur, the Morghul knife, the ending, the prologue, the battle where Thorin got his name, Azog the pale orc (who I read was not CGI, but played by an actor in prosthetics), and more, but for now I’ll sum a few things up.

Overall, I loved the movie. It didn’t have as much heart as Fellowship of the Ring, but that was to be expected if you know both stories. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a great tale, but this part of the book (and this first of three movies) is full of set-up for what is to come. The next two films will be more action packed to be sure, and I think each movie will be better than the one before it. I think this could have been done in two movies as originally planned, but with three movies we’ll get to see a lot of great stuff, and there won’t be that rushed feeling that would have come had only two movies been released. The roughly three hours of extra footage we’re going to get because of the three movies is fine with me. More time in Middle-earth is most welcome, though the casual movie go-er might not feel the same way.

The book, The Hobbit, made me become a fantasy writer myself, but it’s not as spectacular as Lord of the Rings, either the books or the movies. It needed to be embellished and filled out a bit, expanded just as Tolkien expanded the story when he wrote Lord of the Rings. Remember, Tolkien didn’t know the Lord of the Rings story when he wrote The Hobbit back in the 1930’s, but later in life he came up with some missing pieces.

Some of those missing pieces were used by the filmmakers. They took material from the appendices of Return of the King and created a more exciting story, tying together certain villains and events. You should read the appendix about the dwarves “Durin’s Folk” right now if you haven’t. It’s amazing and is in the Return of the King book. Also there’s information in Unfinished Tales, a collection of stories published after J.R.R. Tolkien’s death by his son, Christopher Tolkien. There’s a chapter in Unfinished Tales about “The Quest for Erebor” that is quite fascinating. I recently reread it again, and now own the actual book.

This film could have been stripped down, but I prefer my fantasy movies rich and layered. The writing team of Peter Jackson, Phillippa Boyens, Fran Walsh, and Guillermo del Toro did a fantastic job adapting the novel into a film, or rather three films. This movie is a must see for all fans of the books, and the Lord of the Rings movies. I believe the three films will be triumphant when they’re all out, and I’m excited about having the next two films to look forward to over the next couple of years.

The long wait for the first Hobbit movie is over, and I’m so thankful it was finally made.

Paul Genesse
Author of The Iron Dragon Series, (which features a lot of dwarves--however not Tolkien's variety, and dragons, but definitely no Hobbits).

Monday, December 10, 2012

JUST AS GOOD AS THE FIRST ONE, MORE PLEASE!

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Review: of Blue Skies from Pain by Stina Leicht (no spoilers)

And Blue Skies from Pain,” a book of the Fey and the Fallen, the sequel to Stina Leicht’s fantastic novel “of Blood and Honey,” is just as good as the first one. It started right where book 1 left off, though it does have a fascinating prologue featuring Father Murray, and covers an event that weighs heavily into this book. We get to see a mission from when Father Murray was a young man, just starting out in his order, and it involves the ongoing war the Catholic Church is fighting against the fallen angels.

Father Murray does have some point of view chapters, but the main character is once again, Liam, the former IRA wheelman and half-mortal shape-shifting fey, who has a fondness for punk music, and is quite the outcast in 1970’s Belfast, Ireland during the time of “Troubles.” This series is mostly about Liam, and he has grown quite a bit since his downward spiral in book 1, but he’s still haunted (literally) and can’t face the major loss he suffered less than a year before. He’s got a ways to go before he finds peace (and dare I say, enlightenment). I did love how the novel ended for him. There is some closure and resolution, but we want to see more.

So, the main thrust of the plot (set up in book 1) is Father Murray trying to convince his superiors that the fey are actually not fallen angels, and the Church should stop killing them indiscriminately, as they have for countless years. Liam agrees to be a test subject and prove that he, and the fey, are not demons. Of course it all goes horribly wrong, and the IRA is not very excited about Liam refusing to work for them anymore as a get-away-car driver.

The main characters are always in danger and keep getting put in situations that make you want to squirm. They get beat up a lot, and Leicht is particularly hard on her characters. “And Blue Skies from Pain” is not as dark as the first book in some respects, but the characters keep getting captured and roughed up. I think that the “getting captured” event has been a little overused in the first two books, but it always seems plausible. I’m just hoping Leicht has some other tricks up her sleeve for the next book, and I’m with an imagination like hers I believe she will come up with even more fiendish ways to make the characters suffer.

This novel did expand and go into more detail regarding the fey, Liam’s people, and touched on the fallen angel war, but there is a lot of ground left to cover. I’m very much looking forward to the next book, and think it might be the juiciest one yet, as the first two have set up a great conflict and established some awesome characters and world-building.
Some of the most notable things in “And Blue Skies from Pain” involve the new secondary characters. I’m very much hoping the American combat nuns will return, (yes, combat nuns) and that the black haired girl, who might be a selkie, will be back.

I’m a big fan of Stina Leicht’s work and very much enjoy her characters, and the fascinating world she’s created. Her vision is how I think dark urban fantasy should be done, not too much spoon-feeding of the readers, and not too much exposition about supernatural things, but with completely believable characters in tough situations.

View it on Amazon.com, or view my review of book 1.

FIVE STARS, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Paul Genesse



Friday, November 9, 2012

Review of Monster Hunter Legion by Larry Correia

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Monster Hunter Legion by New York Times Bestselling author Larry Correia is a really fun book. I read it quickly and enjoyed every minute. I’ve loved the Monster Hunter series so much and this fourth book was the next step in the ongoing evolution of the story, and the main character, Owen Zastava Pitt, also known as “Z.” He’s the Chosen One, and he’s finally accepting what that means for him and his family. Nothing is easy for Owen, but then if it were, the books would not be half as compelling. Z is by far, my favorite monster hunting accountant of all time.

The danger and excitement are off the hook for most of this novel, but Legion doesn’t start out as fast-paced as some of the other Monster Hunter books. In the opening scenes my favorite monster hunting company, Monster Hunter International (MHI: Proudly killing monsters since 1895!), is in Las Vegas, Nevada attending the very first monster hunter convention, where industry professionals from all over the world gather to talk shop and hang out. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, there are of course the rival companies at each other’s throats (literally and figuratively), and of course there is the Monster Control Bureau (the MCB), who are always at odds with the private companies, and then there is Special Task Force Unicorn, STFU. The leader of STFU, a very pale man who calls himself Stricken, is a very scary dude and he is now in charge and has decided to shape events and lay the groundwork for the implementation of a secret program called Nemesis. If his plans kill, maim, or otherwise destroy the monster hunting companies of the world in the process, then so be it. Stricken does not care about collateral damage. Fans will remember Stricken from the last novel, Monster Hunter Alpha, and the events of that book come into play in a big way.

In Legion, the worldwide spike in monster infestations is finally explained, though we still don’t know what or who exactly is driving the monsters to come out of hibernation, or why they are leaving their planes of existence to attack ours. That will be revealed in the next novel, I’m sure. Regardless, the plot of this novel is the culmination of all the other monster hunter books, and if you haven’t read them, start reading. This one won’t make as much sense to those who haven’t read the previous ones for sure, and if you’re a new fan, it’s a good time to begin, as you’ll be able to read four awesome books without having to wait that long for the next one, or by the time you finish these, the next one will be out.

The series is building to such a fever pitch and my favorite characters were all represented well in this novel: Julie, wife of Owen and a deadeye sniper; Holly the former stripper turned monster hunter; Milo the genius inventor explosives guru; Skippy the orc helicopter pilot; Ed the Orc Swordfighter; Tanya, Trailer Park Elf Princess; Earl Harbinger werewolf KING, and of course Agent Franks of the MCB. He was referred to as a “National Treasure” in Legion, and I’ve heard there will be a novel from his point of view in the future. I can’t wait for that, and think he is an extremely fascinating character.

Larry Correia is a superb character writer, and action-sequence writer, but what I love best about this series is the mix of humor and drama. It’s fast-paced action with a comedic vibe that comes out at just the right moments.

I wrote out some of my favorite lines, which end the chapters:

Chapter 2
“I said I was going back to bed, not back to sleep.” Julie grabbed a handful of my shirt and pulled me along. “Sleep is for quitters.”

Chapter 6
“Chicken theft? That's totally going on his next evaluation.”

Chapter 12
“Welcome to the smart team, Tanya . . . Now give me my marker back. You have to earn your own dry-erase marker.”

Those are some fun lines, and you get the idea about how cool this book series is. I’d also like to mention one of the most unique names for a character ever: Management. Also, there is a scene that portrays the best use of a live chicken to fix a broken helicopter ever written.

Monster Hunter Legion is the most ambitious and high-concept of all the books in the series, and fans will love the crazy ride and the break-neck ending. I’m really looking forward to the next one, Monster Hunter Nemesis.

View on Amazon: Monster Hunter Legion by Larry Correia
Highly Recommended, Five Stars

Paul Genesse
Author of the Iron Dragon Series, Editor of The Crimson Pact Series




Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht

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Review: of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht
(Minor Spoilers Present)

This first novel in the Fey and the Fallen series, of Blood and Honey, had my attention from the start and kept me fascinated the whole way through. Campbell award nominee, Stina Leicht’s debut novel is brilliantly crafted, fast-paced, and completely engrossing. It’s a very dark urban fantasy about a young Irishman, Liam, growing up in the 60’s and 70’s in Northern Ireland, mainly Derry and Belfast, as the fight between the Protestants and Catholics heats up. The historical backdrop is intriguing, and so different from most urban fantasies I’ve read. The unique historical setting is a huge plus for the book, but it is first and foremost a character driven novel, mainly about Liam.

Of Blood and Honey doesn’t get bogged down in the details about what’s going on in the wider war or the historical context, but history buffs will enjoy the brief mentions of important events and historical figures for sure, though it’s never done to excess. If you want to know more about the history that Ms. Leicht is referencing, she provides an excellent list of books in the acknowledgements section.

The book focuses on the main character, Liam who is trying to find his way in the world and has a tough home life with a jerk of a stepfather. You feel bad for Liam as he does not know who his real father is and that is a huge part of the novel. The truth about his parentage is revealed slowly and we learn that his father, Bran is one of the fey, and Liam has inherited at least some of his father’s dark gifts. This exploration of what Liam is, he has no idea for what feels like eighty percent of the book, is very well done. It kept me wondering and reading. If you like your fiction spoon-fed into your brain and everything explained in exact detail, this is not the book for you. If you prefer realistic, subtle and nuanced fiction, this novel is damn near perfect.

I love books like this that don’t tell too much. I find them much more believable than novels who go into extreme detail about everything and leave little unsaid between the characters. Details can be great, but the mystery keeps me interested and reading onward. Too much explanation actually hurts my suspension of disbelief, and makes a lot of the fantasy elements seem ridiculous, and this book is serious and believable at every turn.

One nitpicky issue: I don’t like the cover that much. It’s a great scene, well painted and on topic as it conveys the right mood, but it’s too dark for my tastes and I think this book deserved a rock star cover. The image for book two is similarly dark, which I suppose is a warning to the readers out there about what to expect in this series, but I wanted images that would POP more.

Moving on . . . The biggest strength of the book: The way Leicht handles the interactions between the characters. The dialogue and the characters’ actual actions are particularly awesome and so realistic. My favorite were the scenes with Liam and his paramour, a strong female character named Mary Kate, who is quite politically minded and wants to be a lawyer. Liam is very strong himself, but he has trouble reading, and is constantly fighting the literal monster within him that is trying to get out and wreak havoc. He’s a tortured hero and his experiences change him over the course of the book a lot. Mary Kate has her own war going during this book and her actions cause a lot of trouble for the both of them.

The other major character is Father Murray, a somewhat hippie Catholic Priest who has a keen interest in young Liam’s supernatural lineage, and the secret war between the Catholic church and the fallen angels who are terrorizing the world. The fey have gotten lumped into the fallen angel category and the Church has been killing them for centuries, not realizing the error of their ways. Of course Father Murray has many secrets and keeps Liam in the dark for most of the book, not telling him what is really going on to the detriment of Liam, really.

The final major character is Liam’s mother, Katherine. She and Father Murray work together to help Liam, though the young man does not feel their assistance is helpful at all, and I would completely agree. You have to be honest with people at some point and Father Murray waited on this until a very bad moment to come clean.

I enjoyed the journey of Liam as he dealt with all the chaos of living in Belfast during the “Time of Troubles” and devoured this book reading it only a few days. It’s stuck with me for some time and that is a mark of a great book. I admit that I had to put it down a few times when certain gut-wrenching events occurred. I’m tough, but I want to warn the squeamish readers that this book might not be for you. There are several scenes of torture and extreme abuse. I think four times I had to put the book down for a few minutes as I recoiled in horror at what was happening, or what had just happened to a beloved character. Of course I couldn’t help myself and went right back to reading after a few minutes and powered ahead as I had to find out what happened next.

The plot and the overall idea of the secret war going on actually reminds me of The Crimson Pact anthology series that I am the editor of, where demons have infested our world (actually many different worlds) and a group of hunters are fighting them. In a way, of Blood and Honey fits perfectly in with the Crimson Pact core idea, which is another reason I loved this book so much.

There were so many twists and turns in of Blood and Honey and it kept me guessing right up to the ending. I’m very excited because I own book two, And Blue Skies from Pain, which continues this novel in a big way. There is so much more to be explored and I trust that the war between the fey and the fallen angels will get more page time in book two and subsequent novels. View it on Amazon.

Highly recommended, Five Stars

Paul Genesse
Author of the Iron Dragon Series and Editor of The Crimson Pact series

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Monster Hunter International Role-Playing Game

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I just backed an awesome kickstarter that will fund a fun role-playing game, the Monster Hunter International Employee Handbook by Hero Games. I'm a huge fan of the novels and am so excited with the idea of playing in the world Larry Correia created. Check out the video and the link.



Check out the kickstarter site here:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/herogames/the-monster-hunter-international-employees-handboo?ref=live

I went in big and will be getting a signed and numbered book if it ends up getting funded, but even small amounts will help out a lot. I'm also excited to read Larry Correia's new book, Monster Hunter Legion, which just came out.

Paul Genesse
Author of the Iron Dragon Series

Thursday, August 30, 2012

World Con 2012

Paul's World Con 2012 Schedule


Thursday August 30

Flight 11:20 on Delta
Arrive 3:05 in Chicago

Stay at the Hyatt Regencty Hotel

Faith in Fiction 4:30-6:30
Where: Crystal A
Shanna Swendson-M, Paul Genesse, Tim Akers, Laurel Ann Hill, Isabel Schechter

Friday August 31

Steampunk 1:30-3:00
Where: Gold Coast
Sarah Hans-M, Jay Lake, Michael Coorlim, S.J., Paul Genesse

Autograph session 4:30-6:00
Paul Genesse, Charles Stross, Gra Linnea, Jay Lake, Sharon Shinn

Electronic Publishing
Where: Gold Coast
Eric Flint-M, Paul Genesse Amanda Luedeke, Jason Sizemore, Joshua Bilmes

Saturday September 1
Open

Leave Sunday
Flight at 1:45

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

True Blood -esque Novel Set In Russia

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(from the season five finale of True Blood on HBO)

I just watched the season finale of True Blood. Wow, what a great ending to the best season in years. I loved it and of course can't wait for the next one, which is going to be so awesome, judging by what they set up in the past ten episodes.

If you miss watching True Blood, check out this novel: Midnight in St. Petersburg, which is a very entertaining urban fantasy novel in the same vein as HBO's True Blood series--which is based on New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels . . . but this book is set in the broken and predatory city of St. Petersburg, Russia, a dirty jewel of a city on the shores of the Baltic. The dark aura of the city radiates from the pages and is always present, watching and waiting to strike the well-drawn characters pulled into its hungry shadow.


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Author Barbara J. Webb gives us a fascinating view of the old world and all the supernatural creatures that have been secretly living there for millennia fighting an Invisible War with each other, and against "voiders," humans who use dark magic to level the playing field. St. Petersburg has been the site of many recent murders of vampires and voiders both, and if the killers are not found out soon, the Invisible War will be explode and many more voiders and vampires will die. (read the rest of my review on Amazon.


A Little Short For An Alien by Frances Pauli

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The Genre Underground blog, where I recently did an interview is giving away some free eBooks from authors who are friends of the blog. You can go to http://www.genreunderground.com to learn more. I know that prolific speculative fiction author Frances Pauli, among others is giving away some eBooks. This is time sensitive, so check out Frances' books on her blog and leave a comment to be entered to win a free eBook.

Here's her blog address. http://francespauli.blogspot.com/


Paul Genesse
Author of the Iron Dragon Series and Editor of The Crimson Pact Series

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Genre Underground Interview




Short interview with details on Crimson Pact Vol. 5 and more: http://www.genreunderground.com published on August 23, 2012.

Paul Genesse
Editor of The Crimson Pact anthologies and the Iron Dragon Series
www.paulgenesse.com

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Once and Future Podcast About Gen Con Writers' Symposium

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Cool podcast about the Gen Con Writers' Symposium I've been a part of for years. It's hosted by the awesome and hilarious, author Anton Strout:

http://blog.antonstrout.com/2012/07/29/of-podcast-ep-40--gen-con-2012.aspx

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Crimson Pact Volume 4 is out now!


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By a bullet or a blade, the Pact will have justice.


A gunslinger rides down a dark road
in an alternate history Old West . . .

A lone woman tries to save a distant planet
from a diabolical invasion . . .

A rogue demon seeks vengeance
on his former queen . . .

Read the supernatural Western, “Darkness of the Sun,” a novella by Patrick M. Tracy, and sixteen other action packed and terrifying stories that run the gamut of urban fantasy, horror, science fiction and fantasy, with stories by Michaele Jordan, Usman T. Malik Brett Peterson, Sarah Hans, Daniel Myers, Kelly Swails, Sarah Kanning, Valerie Dircks, John Perkins, Elizabeth Shack, Leigh Dragoon, Donald Darling, Steven Diamond, and Suzzanne Myers.

Make your mark in blood and join the Crimson Pact!


Here's the opening of Darkness of the Sun by Patrick M. Tracy

Part One: Dogs and Preachers

I put my boot against the preacher’s neck and held him down. His claws reached up, scratching at my chaps, his needle-sharp teeth gnawing against my heel. He gave out a hellish growl that would put a cougar to shame, but I wouldn’t let him up. Not after all the nonsense he’d got himself up to—poisoning wells, swindling folks out of their life savings . . . shoot, he’d even stolen a few horses. In the Arizona Territory, such behavior was not tolerated. I unholstered my .58 Buxton and pointed it into his scarlet demonic face. We both knew what he was by then.


Check it out here:
http://thecrimsonpact.com/store.html

Tales From the Crimson Pact is FREE until the end of the week at Amazon. http://bit.ly/N9eMf5

Even if you don’t have a Kindle, you can still read it on the free Kindle apps for your computer or smartphone. You can download that at http://amzn.to/PjCULx

Additionally, the first story in the Crimson Pact series, the one that sets the whole thing up, is available in PDF form from our website: http://thecrimsonpact.com/Failed_Crusade.pdf

If you’ve been looking for a quick way to either start with The Crimson Pact yourself - or introduce a friend without overwhelming them! - these are a great opportunity.

Tales From the Crimson Pact: http://amzn.to/PjCULx

The Failed Crusade: http://thecrimsonpact.com/Failed_Crusade.pdf


Volume 3 is also available as a trade paperback and as an eBook.

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Volume 2 is is also available as a trade paperback and as an eBook.

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Volume 1 is also available as a trade paperback and as an eBook.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

THERE WILL BE THREE HOBBIT MOVIES, NOT TWO!!!

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READ PETER JACKSON'S OFFICIAL ANNOUNCENT RIGHT HERE!

http://www.facebook.com/notes/peter-jackson/an-unexpected-journey/10151114596546558


I'M SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS NEWS!

Review of The Coldest War

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Review of The Coldest War, (Book two in the Milkweek Tryptich) by Ian Tregillis

(No big spoilers, except for a few minor ones that regard the set-up)

I just finished The Coldest War, book two of three in the Milkweed Triptych by Ian Tregillis. I devoured it.

I read book one, Bitter Seeds (now out in mass market paperback by the way) in about three days and the same applies to book two. I would have read faster if I’d had the time.

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(The mass market paperback cover)

I'm so blown away right now from finishing this fantastic novel. Mr. Tregillis has created a brilliant book, and I concur with the blurb from Game of Thrones author, George R.R. Martin blurb, “A major talent,” indeed.

The ending was so awesome, and redeems the grim nature of this book. More on that later . . .

The same characters from book one are back, and it’s about twenty years after the end of an alternate history World War II, and is now 1963, the height of the Cold War. The Soviet Union appears to have all of Europe, even France.

The alternate history is fascinating, but that is not the point of the book. This is a character novel and focuses very tightly on the protagonists, so we get three main point of view characters. There is very little detail given about the wildly divergent world so different from what happened after World War II in our world, but the details we do get are tantalizing, especially for history buffs.

Raybould Marsh, the British super-spy, is now a broken down middle-aged man with a terrible home-life and he’s working as a gardener after getting fired from all his other jobs. His journey is incredibly bleak and sad, the most depressing of all the storylines. He should have listened to his warlock friend, William from book one, but he didn’t, and Raybould and his wife, Liv, had another child. BIG MISTAKE.

William Beauclerk is also back, he was the warlock in Bitter Seeds who helped the British Empire fend off the Nazis who had super-human warriors. British warlocks negotiate with the eidolons (think demons) and accomplish feats of magic that boggle the mind, but the cost is high. Think . . . a blood price, and/or the souls of unborn children. William is no longer doing what he did before and has recovered from some of the horror of what he had to do during World War II, and he has the happiest life of all the characters. However, Will is still traveling down a very dark and dangerous road that is leading him toward a terrible confrontation.

Klaus, the former Nazi superman warrior is also back, but he is a pale reflection of who he was before, when he was at the peak of his power. After twenty years in a Soviet research camp he is incredibly broken and his storyline is so sad and very often quite poignant. I felt so bad for him, as he has been abused his entire life.

Raybould, William, and Klaus are the three main point of view characters, although there is one other with minor scenes, Reinhardt, another former Nazi superwarrior.

The most fascinating character is still Gretel, who is the sister of Klaus. She has the power of precognition and is so devious and brilliant. Tregillis gives us a look into her thoughts at the end of the book, which is worth all the dreary sadness of what went before. All the groundwork Tregillis did in book one (and two) paid off big time at the end. Wow, standing ovation.

Gretel can manipulate the time-line and might just be in charge of the future, but can she change it, or just delay things with her actions? You’ll have to read this book to find out.

***Look for the short story available on Kindle, about Gretel that precedes this trilogy, “What Dr. Gottlieb Saw,” and learn more about her as a teenager. It’s a great short story and worth the 99 cents, and you don’t need a Kindle to read it. You can read it on your browser while you’re on Amazon.com. Read it after you’ve read Bitter Seeds, not before, as it kind of gives things away.

Overall, The Coldest War had a lot of tension, brilliant, razor sharp prose, and some pretty amazing action. There were so many great chapter endings and twisted moments. Tregillis is a master of the complicated and awesome plot, and I’m stunned at the foreshadowing he did in book one, which came out in book two. It’s a must, in my opinion to read these books in order, as the sequel builds on book one big time. There is some recap about what happened in book one (thankfully), but I think readers would be a little lost had they not read Bitter Seeds.

Strangely, as I read Coldest War, I felt like the book was too perfect sometimes, meaning: "How the heck did Tregillis pull this off and make this book so great?!" It just felt like there was nothing wrong, and that bugged me a little. I kept thinking, “I'm going to see a chink in the armor here somewhere,” but it never materialized.

The only real negative of this book was that it was so dark and depressing that some people will find it hard to take, but as long as readers get to the ending, it will all be okay. My feeling that the book was too depressing was erased with the fantastic ending of course. I’m not going to spoil it here, but suffice it to say that it will leave you floored and wanting book three, Necessary Evil (April 2013) really bad.

So, yes, the book was harsh and depressing most of the time, but Tregillis kept the tension up so much that no matter the sadness I felt for the characters, I could still face reading on about them, as I wanted to find out what was going to happen. That is the mark of great writing.

I’m just so impressed with this series and feel like Tregillis succeeded big time. I have no doubt that book three will be a triumphant conclusion to a great series.

Five Stars, Highly Recommended

Paul Genesse, Author of the Iron Dragon Series and Editor of The Crimson Pact anthology series

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Salt City Steamfest 2012 Recap

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I had a great time at the very first Salt City Steamfest. Sadly, I can't attend the second day as I have a prior commitment. (sigh)

***If you're looking for the notes from my "Exploring Steampunk Novels and Stories" presentation, look back two entries on my blog, or click this link here. I have links to the books I was discussing and the Founders of Steampunk video from World Fantasy that I mentioned.

First I want to thank Nivi, the Director of the convention, pictured below in costume, for having me. She even mentioned me on her channel 5 TV interview, which was cool. Nivi is awesome and there were so many people in incredible costumes, including her.

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Pictured: Nivatima R. Dimentia


I had to wear my own costume, which included my leather vest, derby hat, gold pocket watch, belt with gears and cogs on the buckle (and a cool winding mechanism), and of course, my brass goggles--which got a lot of positive comments.

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Pictured: Steampunk fan and author Paul Genesse


Steamfest was incredibly well attended, and several hundred steampunk fans packed into the hallways, meeting rooms, and the ball room of the Red Lion hotel. The convention had already made enough money to cover their expenses and then some, so that bodes well for having one next year. I sure hope they do as this was a lot of fun.

The only negative was the temperature. The air conditioning was not good in the hallway, but was okay in the ballroom. The hotel staff were working on the problem at least. I guess it was ironic that it was hot and steamy.

The first activity was wander the halls and see all the cool vendors, then to attend author Zachary Hill's presentation on Victorian era weapons from 7-8 PM. Zach has a history degree and gave an awesome presentation with lots of pictures featuring Victorian weaponry. You should really check out his "Minimum Wage Historian Blog" which is packed with awesome information and presented in hilarious fashion.

After a belly dancing performance by Zahirah's troop it was my turn to go on. I did a solo presentation (not belly dancing, sorry) in the ball room titled: Exploring Steampunk Novels and Stories. It went really well and the crowd was awesome as I went over the seminal works in the genre and discussed my own experiences with steampunk. Most people get into steampunk through the fashion, but I'm hoping that more of them will read some stories and books.

Afterward, I did a little book signing and met some cool steampunk fans and writers. It's always great to chat with fellow book lovers and readers.

I managed to attend half of a presentation called "Steampunk Goes West" by Stanley ________? but had to leave at 11:00 PM for my reading.

I was invited to read a bedtime story at a steampunk pajama party. First, artist and author Howard Tayler sang a song (who knew he was such a great singer!), then "Dave" D.J Butler sang a cool steampunk song and played guitar that he wrote, then he read from his City of Saints steampunk series which features notable characters: Edgar Allen Poe, Samuel Clemens, and Richard Burton (a famed British explorer) and of course it centers in 1800's Utah. It's a must read for Mormons, as there are quite a few historically significant mormon characters in the series as well.
Check out City of Saints on Amazon.com.

Then I read the first scene from my novella in Steampunk'd, The Nubian Queen, and a later scene with Queen Sahdi and Duke Zander as they boated down the Nile. I read for a little under 20 minutes and it was the best reading I've done in a long time. I'm totally going to read from this again at conventions, as it went over really well.

Howard Tayler ended up doing a reading as well, then I closed the evening by singing a short lullaby, "Soft Kitty" from Big Bang Theory, but instead of singing the line "sleepy kitty" I of course sang, "steamy kitty." Fun times.

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Check out Steampunk'd on Amazon and read my story, The Nubian Queen. This book is almost out of print, so order soon.

Best Regards Steampunks!

Paul Genesse
Author of The Nubian Queen and editor of several steampunk stories featured in The Crimson Pact anthology series.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Salt City Steamfest 2012

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Salt City Steamfest
Paul Genesse Presentation Notes
Friday July 27, 2012 at 8:00 PM
http://www.saltcitysteamfest.com/


Exploring Steampunk Novels and Stories
Find out where the steampunk genre started and learn about the novels and stories that spurred the modern steampunk movement. Author and editor, Paul Genesse will lead a discussion of the past and present works that have defined the genre, and mention his conversation with K.W. Jeter, the man who coined the term, “steampunk.” There will also be a group discussion of the steampunk books fans are reading today.
Rating: Teen+

(This is the tongue in cheek letter that K.W. Jeter wrote in 1987 to Locus Magazine and was published in April 1987, where he coined the term “steampunk.”)

Dear Locus,
Enclosed is a copy of my 1979 novel Morlock Night; I'd appreciate your being so good as to route it to Faren Miller, as it's a prime piece of evidence in the great debate as to who in "the Powers/Blaylock/Jeter fantasy triumvirate" was writing in the "gonzo-historical manner" first. Though of course, I did find her review in the March Locus to be quite flattering.
Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective term for Powers, Blaylock and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of the era; like "steampunks", perhaps...
—K.W. Jeter


Here are the links I’m planning on mentioning in the presentation:

Link to the Founders of Steampunk panel at World Fantasy 2012 in San Diego featuring: K.W. Jeter, James Blaylock, John Berlyne, and Tim Powers.

My favorite quotes from the panel:

“We weren’t hampered by knowledge” (about science). “Any revision of history that we do is accidental, as we don’t know anything about the real history.” Tim Powers

“Imaginary science is better and more fun than real science.” K.W. Jeter

“Anubis Gates is a complete fake as far as steampunk.” Tim Powers (author of Anubis Gates)

“Homunculus (by James Blaylock 1986) and Infernal Devices (by K.W. Jeter 1987) are perfect steampunk.” Tim Powers *Side note, the sequel to Infernal Devices is coming out from Tor Books in 2013 and is called "Fiendish Schemes"



Links to websites which go into detail about the great steampunk novels

Steampunk: 20 Core Titles
http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6720180.html

12 Classic Steampunk Novels
http://www.flashlightworthybooks.com/Best-Steampunk-Books/403

Wikipedia Steampunk List of Works (not complete, but pretty good)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_steampunk_works


Link to preview of my short story, “The Nubian Queen”
http://paulgenesse.blogspot.com/2010/03/nubian-queen-my-steampunk-story.html

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Link to Steampunk edited by Ann Vandermeer on Amazon


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Link to Steampunk II by Ann Vandermeer on Amazon


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List of awesome Steampunk novels:


The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
Infernal Devices by K. W. Jeter
The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
The Warlord of the Air by Michael Moorcock
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore
Steampunk: anthology, ed. by Ann VanderMeer & Jeff VanderMeer
The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
Perdido Street Station b y China Mieville
Extraordinary Engines: the Definitive Steampunk Anthology
Souless by Gail Carriger
Leviathan by Scott Westerfields
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Steampunk Trilogy by Paul Di Filippo
Homunculus by James Blaylock
Morlock Night by K. W. Jeter
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll & Mister Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson


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D.J. Butler's novel: Liahona (City of the Saints) Part the First
http://paulgenesse.blogspot.com/search?q=Nubian+queen+podcast

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Review of Apparition by Michaelbrent Collings



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Apparition by Michaelbrent Collings
(spoiler free)

This is the scariest book I’ve ever read. I devoured Apparition in two episodes of all night reading and had a really hard time putting it down. I didn’t even mean to read the book at that exact time, but once I read the first chapter I was hooked. I had to keep going and couldn’t stop until I hit chapter seven.

Awesome one minute book trailer


Apparition tells the very intimate story about a family of four: mom, dad, and their two kids, a teen girl and young boy. It explores one of the most horrible concepts I can imagine, filicide: the deliberate killing of children by their parents. That concept alone is horrifying and Collings uses it to ratchet up the terror to a level I haven’t seen before.

Brilliant journal entries written by an unknown person (until the end) precede each chapter and they are some of most chilling lines I’ve ever read. Then the chapters themselves move forward with relentless narrative drive page after page.

The first four chapters are so tense and gripping, and lead up to a big event, which sets up the rest of the book. After the big event, the family which the novel revolves around, are devastated and things just get worse for them as the book continues.

After the big event, the book is tense, but slows for a while as we get to know the main characters, and spend some time in their minds. It is a necessary build up and the characterization is stellar, which of course leads to another series of horrific events that will leave you gasping for air.

The ending of Apparition was incredibly scary and blew me away. I could not stop reading and stayed up hours past my bedtime because I had to finish it and know what happened to these expertly drawn characters who felt so real.

I know that Michaelbrent Collings is a screenwriter and I can see this being an A-list Hollywood horror movie. It would be extremely scary, especially the ending, which pulls together so many threads and gives us the answer why seemingly normal parents suddenly snap one day and kill their children.

APPARITION, FIVE STARS, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for fans of horror and those who want a good scare . . .

Paul Genesse, Editor of the Crimson Pact anthologies

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Prometheus Movie Further Discussion and Sequel Info

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(Shot cut from the theatrical release of Prometheus)

I posted a review about the movie Prometheus last week (http://paulgenesse.blogspot.com/2012/06/review-of-prometheus.html), and wanted to post about some further discussions of what was actually going on in the film, which I still like, despite the negative reactions. I think there is much more going on than most of us realized, which led to confusion.

The main one is a post from Cavalorn, which I found fascinating. The writer of the movie linked to his analysis, so I believe Cavalorn is correct. Interviews with Ridley Scott and the writers have already confirmed much of this analysis.

I'm still a fan of the movie, despite some of the dumb things that a few of the characters did, and certain plot points that seemed tough to understand. If you want to know more about what was going on, read onward . . .

Read this:

*****(Must read) Blog post about the hidden meaning in the movie Prometheus:
http://cavalorn.livejournal.com/584135.html#cutid1

Link to the Behind the Scenes article:
http://collider.com/prometheus-images-new-alien/173252/

Link to the information on the possible Prometheus sequel:
http://collider.com/prometheus-2-sequel/172444/

Prometheus promo video clip featuring Peter Weyland:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ox1n_InxFyg&feature=related

Prometheus promo clip about David the android:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWmbqH_z7jM

Prometheus promo clip with Dr. Elizabeth Shaw:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9PNTIZeJzY&feature=relmfu

Creating Conflict Workshop Notes

Hello Friends,

I taught a three hour class on writing for the "Write for the Heights" Cottonwood Arts council yesterday, June 16, at the Whitmore Library. I had a fantastic turnout, 25 attendees. The crowd was really great and we had such a fun time. Below are some of my notes, which I promised to post on my blog. We discussed the main types of stories and the inherent conflict in each story. I went over the plots to illustrate the traditional conflict in each one.

I spoke for an hour, then we took a break. Then a little more speaking (more on micro conflict), and then we broke into small groups for a while. Then back together for my final thoughts and questions.


“Creating Conflict” Workshop Outline
by Author and Editor Paul Genesse for
“Write for the Heights.”


Blurb for the conference about the workshop:

Creating Conflict: Make war, not peace! Ruffle the feathers of your characters. Stir the pot of emotions. Add a fistfight or two. Craft a clever and entertaining argument among your heroes. Not all conflict has to be bloody or increase the body count, but it does have to keep the reader turning the pages. Author and editor, Paul Genesse (juh-NESS) will discuss the art of adding conflict to your stories, and will guide you through a hands-on workshop which will include creating, revising, and crafting fiction that will make your work stand out above the rest.

Course outline: one hour presentation on how to add conflict to stories as detailed in the blurb, going over the importance of tension, and conflict. I’ll go over some basic story structures, focusing on how conflict can be created with each story type, as well as how the plot and characters should be designed to increase the conflict and tension.

I will go over the basics and will discuss the common story structures and the inherent conflict in each:

Seven-element story structure:

1. Character in a
2. Context with a
3. Conflict
4. Tries to solve,
5. but fails until it reaches a (escalating cycle, until things are as bad as they can possibly be)
6. Climax, when she succeeds or fails
7. Resolves, (dénouement or validation)


The three basic stories of James Gunn, Robert Heinlein, and others:
1. Boy Meets Girl (Romeo and Juliet)
2. The Man Who Learned Better (Gran Turino)
3. The Clever Little Tailor (Indiana Jones)


Six Fundamental Conflicts of Aristotle:
1. Man against man
2. Man against nature
3. Man against himself
4. Man against society
5. Man against god
6. Man against machine

Six fundamental story types by Damon Knight
1. The story of resolution (the hero has a problem and solves it)
2. The story of revelation (something hidden is revealed)
3. The trick ending story (surprising twist)
4. The story of decision (ends in a decision, not necessarily action
5. The story of explanation (explains a mystery)
6. The story of solution (solves a puzzle)


Fantasy and Science Fiction Plot Types per James Gunn
1. Far traveling
2. The wonders of science
3. Humanity/the individual and the machine
4. Progress
5. The individual and society
6. Humanity/the individual
7. War
8. Cataclysm
9. Humanity/the individual and the environment
10. Superpowers
11. Superman/superwoman
12. Humanity/the individual and the alien
13. Humanity/the individual and religion spirituality
14. Miscellaneous glimpses of the future and past

Fantasy
1. Far traveling
2. The quest
3. Strange powers
4. People and the powerful/omnipotent other
5. People and or animals
6. People and magic (or other unscientific sciences)
7. The individual and society
8. Wonders we can touch
9. Good vs. Evil
10. Balance
11. Questioning reality


Once I’ve gone over all of these, the class will be broken up into small groups, then we will take a short break where participants can get to know each other for a moment and discuss their own stories, focusing on micro conflict.

Link to all my published works: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Genesse
Which include a dozen short stories and three novels, plus two anthologies where I served as the editor in chief.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Review of Prometheus

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(Spoiler free review)

I saw Prometheus at midnight with four friends. It was a really great movie, and director and producer Ridley Scott created a fantastic prequel to Alien and Aliens. )Prometheus is the name of the ship that the crew flies into space).

First, this movie is beautiful. The cinematography was amazing. The writing, acting, and directing were incredible and all the actors gave masterful performances. You need to see this movie on the big screen. Don't wait for the DVD or Blue-Ray. I didn't see it in 3D, but I'd like to, and will soon.

Charlize Theron as Vickers, was the biggest star in the film, and she was cold and fierce, playing her character brilliantly. She is not the main character. That role goes to Noomi Rapace, who played the Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, though she looks nothing like that character in this film.

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Noomi Rapace is half Swedish and half Spanish, and grew up in Iceland by the way. This is her film in many ways, (like Alien and Aliens belonged to Sigorney Weaver). Ridley Scott chose the right actress and "Shaw" is such a strong character and Noomi gave a gripping performance.

Below: Noomi Rapace as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw
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The whole idea is that Dr. Shaw and her boyfriend, have discovered an invitation to the stars, and go there looking for the beings who left the message on Earth.

What they find is of course, not what they expected. I won't spoil it here, but it's worth the price of admission for sure, just to find out what's really going on.

The other standout performance is by Michael Fassbender as an artificial person. He was incredible, and almost stole the show for me.

Michael Fassbender as "David" in Prometheus
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The movie had many twists, turns, surprises, and terrifying moments. It all came together brilliantly and left me completely satisfied.

It's got some pretty terrifying/grotesque scenes, so do not take young kids for sure.

Overall, I was extremely impressed and think this is a great sci-fi movie that ponders the big questions, has awesome special effects, brilliant performances, and great writing and directing.

It's going to be a blockbuster, so go and check it out. Now, I must watch Alien again, because that movie makes perfect sense after seeing Prometheus.

***The writer of Prometheus said there is talk of a sequel to this film with a working title of "Paradise." The project has not gotten off the ground yet. We'll see what happens after the box office totals come in for this film.

Remember, in the Greek myth, Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it mankind. Most of the gods believed he made a mistake and tortured him for eternity.

The tag line for the movie is: We came from them. They will come for us.

The question is: When are you going to see it? I'm going again Saturday night.

Paul Genesse
Author of The Iron Dragon Series and Editor of The Crimson Pact anthology series

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Review of Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis

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Review of Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis


Bitter Seeds is a great novel. I was pulled in right away by the beautiful prose and the compelling storyline. I couldn’t put it down and read it in three days, wishing I had the time to read it in one. It’s an alternate history set during World War II with fascinating characters and gripping action. Here’s the blub:

* * * * *

“It’s 1939. The Nazis have supermen, the British have demons, and one perfectly normal man gets caught in between.

Raybould Marsh is a British secret agent in the early days of the Second World War, haunted by something strange he saw on a mission during the Spanish Civil War: a German woman with wires going into her head who looked at him as if she knew him.

When the Nazis start running missions with people who have unnatural abilities—a woman who can turn invisible, a man who can walk through walls, and the woman Marsh saw in Spain who can use her knowledge of the future to twist the present—Marsh is the man who has to face them. He rallies the secret warlocks of Britain to hold the impending invasion at bay. But magic always exacts a price. Eventually, the sacrifice necessary to defeat the enemy will be as terrible as outright loss would be.

Alan Furst meets Alan Moore in the opening of an epic of supernatural alternate history, the tale of a twentieth century like ours and also profoundly different.”

“A major talent... I can't wait to see more."
—George R. R. Martin


“Mad English warlocks battling twisted Nazi psychics? Yes please, thank you. Tregillis’s debut has a white-knuckle plot, beautiful descriptions, and complex characters-- an unstoppable Vickers of a novel.”
–Cory Doctorow

* * * * *

As you can tell, this book has received a lot of attention by major writers and reviewers, and deservedly so. There are many positive reviews online and I agree that this is an exceptional book. I was so impressed with the way Tregillis unfolded the plot, and revealed the characters, of which there are three whose point of view we get to see.

Raybould Marsh is a British spy right in the middle of things; William is a British nobleman who was secretly taught to be a warlock by his slightly insane father; and Klaus is one of the German’s “supermen” with wraith like abilities. All three add a lot to the novel, and there are quite a few other secondary characters that are quite fascinating as well.

The most interesting other character is the sister of Klaus, Gretel, who has also been mutated via diabolical processes and now she can predict the future, and warp it to her will. She’s the most powerful of all of the Nazi “supermen,” and is on the cover of both the mass market and hard cover editions for good reason. I wish Tregillis would have let us into her mind, but that would be too telling I’m sure, as she knows what’s going to happen and would ruin the mystery of what is to come.

This is a trilogy called the Milkweed Tryptych, and Bitter Seeds came out in 2010. The sequel, The Coldest War, is coming out in July of 2012, so I/we don’t have long to wait now. I feel late to the party, but at least I got there eventually. I’m stoked about reading the sequel, and have just pre-ordered it on Amazon. The cover is awesome and shows one of the “supermen” in great detail. Their abilities are powered by horrific surgery, which connects their brain to special batteries they wear around their waists. The “superman,” Klaus was forced into being a Nazi soldier, and he is extremely sympathetic, and his chapters are always interesting.

Every chapter was finely crafted, and the big time span gaps between some chapters really added to the coolness of the story. All the chapters have a date on them: month, day and year, which helped a lot. Anyway, this is not a large book, and only spans about 350 pages, but so much was accomplished. It was so impressive how little Tregillis told about what was happening in the actual wider war, but still incorporated a huge story in between the pages, as he focused on the three main characters and their experiences as wider events played around them. They are a huge part of those larger events, but this is not the alternate history of World War II in detail. There are lots of hints, but Tregillis doesn’t go into detail much at all. I would have liked more about how certain battles were going and such, but those issues weren’t the point of the book.

Some of the wider war was actually shown in incredibly written interludes from the point of view of flocks of ravens and crows that feast on the dead after major battles. The interludes from the birds point of view were so awesome. Tregillis has a flare for brilliant description, and his ability to be brief, and yet powerful, is amazing.

The book opens with a chapter from the ravens point of view. Here’s the first line:

Murder on the wind: crows and ravens wheeled beneath a heavy sky, like spots of ink splashed across a leaden canvas.


It’s a great first line.

Bitter Seeds is a little bit X-Men, a little bit James Bond, with a core of brilliant darkness that pulls you in page after page.

Highly recommended. Check Ian Tregillis's awesome blog for more.

Paul Genesse
Author of the Iron Dragon Series and Editor of The Crimson Pact anthology series

The Coldest War
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Friday, June 1, 2012

Review of The Straits of Galahesh

Review of The Straits of Galahesh written by Bradley P. Beulieu

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I just finished reading The Straits of Galahesh by Bradley P. Beaulieu for the second time. Wow, I love this book. It’s the second novel in the Lays of Anuskaya trilogy and is epic fantasy at its finest. The Winds of Khalakovo, book one, was awesome, and this one (set five years later) is even better.

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This series is a cross between George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series (you know HBO’s Game of Thrones, right?), and Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea series, but with a Czarist Russian flavor.

I really enjoyed the sword fights, ship-to-ship canon battles, and all the gunfire—with muskets of course. There is also a Persian influence (The Aramahn) and in this book we get a Turkish-like culture, led by the Kamarisi (the emperor), who is the most powerful man in the world, and is the overlord of the freezing, windswept islands where the Anuskayan (Russian) culture lives.

The Kamarisi is going to crush the islanders and take over, unless the heroes are able to find a way to prevent war. There is also the problem of the wasting disease and the rifts that are opening all over the world, slowing destroying it and threatening the ley line trade routes that the windships use to navigate from island to island.

The worldbuilding is top-notch, and the strength of the setting really anchors the book and makes it feel real. The characterization seals the deal, and I was swept up in the turbulent winds that blast through this novel leading to an epic conclusion that left me wide-mouthed and in awe.

Few finales are as remarkable as in Straits. Beaulieu (pronounced: bowl-yer) writes three character threads and they come together brilliantly and go in unexpected directions. There is a serious body count in this book, and no one is safe. The large cast of secondary characters is painted expertly, making you care, then they are . . . well, killed off with gusto. Sigh.

All the action keeps you riveted to the rich, detailed, and unfolding storyline, and the fascinating world. As the book goes forward the confrontation between the Kamarisi, the Anuskayan islanders and their windships, the powerful Sariya and Muqallad who are trying to tear open the rifts, and our protagonists, Nikandr, Atiana, and Nasim build and build until the mystery of the rifts and the antagonists plans are slowly revealed.

This is an expansive story told through the eyes of three main characters. Nikandr Khalakovo, heir to the Duchy of Khalakovo is one. Atiana Vostromo, a strong woman and princess who will do anything to save her people, even if it means sacrificing her love for Nikandr, and Nasim, a teenage boy who is the reincarnation of a man who once wanted to bring about the destruction of the world.

In Straits, Nikandr is trying to stop the rifts from spreading, as they are tearing the world apart. He is a dynamic and complex character and his chapters are my favorite. He spends a lot of time on the amazing windships and I very much looked forward to Nikandr’s chapters. He is actively trying to save his islands He is in love with Atiana, and their first chapter together will leave you in shock.

Atiana is one of many strong female characters in this series. Her chapters, especially the ones where she goes into the drowning basin and her spirit wanders the aether, are incredible. In Straits she has become a Matra, and her abilities to navigate the aether make a huge difference in the book.

The third story thread belongs to Nasim. He is the reincarnation of Khamal, a master of the elemental magic, who along with his two friends, Sariya and Muguallad, wanted to bring about a tremendous change in the world. Nasim/Khamal), Sariya and Muqallad, are the reason the rifts have begun to destroy the world and it is they who have brought about the Wasting disease that has claimed the lives of so many, and ruined the land itself.

The Nasim chapters are the most challenging to understand, and the most obtuse. Not all of them are hard, but the memories/dreams that Nasim has of his previous life are purposefully hard to decipher. Luckily there are many Nasim chapters side by side, so you can understand them better and get into a flow with them before Beaulieu switches to another storyline.

The Nasim chapters are written in such a way that you will mostly understand, but this series is not spoon fed to you. It made me think hard and sometimes I had to just pass some things by and hope I figured them out later. Even Nasim didn’t understand it all, as he struggled with remembering things from his previous life as Khamal. He’s a very interesting character, and he’s like a villain who is turning over a new leaf in a new life. He’s young (a teenager) though he really has the experience of a much older person buried inside him, but he is impetuous and kind of annoying with his stubbornness at times. He doesn’t like what he did in his past life, and escaped that life to fix things that he did in this one. A hard road to follow.

Understanding this book can be a challenge, but the glossary in the back is a lifesaver. When I was stumped, I would look at it and be reminded of what I’d forgotten. There are a lot of unfamiliar names (Persian, Turkish, Russian) and they don’t stick in my mind that well, but the glossary helped a lot. Also, there is a great summary of book one before chapter one, which really reminded me of what had gone before, as it had been a year since I read Winds.

It was great being back in this world, and one of the big features in this book is The Spar, a bridge that will connect the two halves of the island of Galahesh (from the book title). The Spar made my imagination soar. It would be an awesome painting, golden light reflecting off the titanic arches that connect the sheer cliffs on either side, and the raging sea beneath.

So much of the imagery in this novel blew me away and Beaulieu is a very gifted writer, worthy of the accolades he’s achieved and all the great reviews. He’s attempted an extremely ambitious trilogy and book two delivers on the promises made in book one. The Winds of Khalakovo (link to my review of Winds) was an incredible achievement, and Straits makes it clear that Winds was no fluke.

There area a multitude of epic fantasies set in white, Medieval European settings, and if you’re getting a little bored with those, and want a flavor you’ve never had before, please check these books out. I love how Beaulieu broke out of the mold and created such a unique world. I love the cultures, the windships, the mysterious and cool elemental magic, and all of the action. Mostly, I love the characters, especially Nikandr, and Atiana.

If you’d like to take a ride on windships, see the amazing elemental magic of the Aramahn, fall in love with strong characters who drive the story, and lose yourself in a fantasy world the likes of which you’ve never seen before . . . explore the dangerous and mysterious Straits of Galahesh.


HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by Paul Genesse

Author of the Iron Dragon Series & Editor of The Crimson Pact anthology series


View an interactive map of the Lays of Anuskaya World here. Zoom in to learn more and watch little videos and much more, including Brad reading from his books. I've never seen a map as cool as this one.

View the book trailer or download the 15 chapter sample of book 1, The Winds of Khalakovo here.




Wednesday, May 30, 2012

CONduit Convention Recap

The CONduit 2012 sci-fi/fantasy convention was lots of fun. I wanted to mention the highlights. The best thing about it was seeing all my friends and fans, and many thanks to the organizers and volunteers for putting it on.

Friday:
1:00 PM Writing Point of View
Virginia Smith, Dan Wells, and Mette Ivie Harrison and I had lots of fun with this panel. It was truly a great one and we discussed the various ways of writing point of view. A small war was started as we disagreed on which POV is the most engaging. I say first person, but Ginny says 3rd person limited can be just as effective. I think first person is the hardest to get right, so I choose to write in 3rd person limited. I love that point of view, and it's my favorite to write in. Third person omniscient with lots of "head-hopping" is the KISS OF DEATH for new writers. Don't do it.

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3:00 PM Reading. I read with Dan Wells and it was a great crowd. About 16 people were present to hear me read part of No Tusks, and two scenes from The Secret Empire. It was lots of fun, and Dan Wells is such a great writer and reader. Look for his books. You won't be disappointed.


Saturday:
10:00 Top Contemporary YA Books: The Authors' Perspective
I was able to be on this panel with Guest of Honor, Tamora Pierce. YA Librarian Julie Bartel was the moderator, and Mette Ivie Harrison rounded us out. It was such an honor to be on this panel. I'm a big fan of Tamora Pierce. She is the most well read person I know, and reads so many books all the time. Her Goodreads reviews are vast and so extensive. Friend her there and you'll see.

12:00 What is Steampunk?

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Great panel, and there will be a Steampunk convention July 27 and 28 here in Salt Lake. I'll be there. Find out more here: http://www.saltcitysteamfest.com/

1:30 Book signing with Tamora Pierce.

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Such an honor, and "Tammy" is such a kind, and wonderful person. Her books are great, and I've been a fan for a long time. She writes strong female characters and her readers are so devoted to her.

4:00 The Lord of the Rings Movies +10 years and The Hobbit movie (a discussion)
I was the moderator for this one. All of us are very excited for The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey, coming out December 14, 2012.

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6-8 PM Launch Party for The Secret Empire. This was so much fun. It was a celebration for the release of my new book. For entertainment, No Tusks and Mungo the Giant fought to the death. My short story, No Tusks is coming later this year.

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To see the pics from the party, check to this link:

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151004493039136.490603.583339135&type=3&l=a4aaf98ddb


Sunday
Lost my voice from all the shouting at the launch party as I MC'd the fight, and also from all the talking I was doing. I just hung out and watched some great panels, hung out with the awesome author Jane Lindskold and her husband Jim, an archaeologist, and then saw Avengers. Life is good.

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Avengers Movie Review

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I just wanted to document for posterity my complete approval of the Avengers movie. I finally saw it on May 26, 2012, thereby redeeming my nerd-credibility. I was busy the previous weeks, but it was time to go and see this movie.

First, the movie was brilliantly written and directed by Joss Whedon. He's the man and I give him most of the credit for the movie being so good. All of the actors did magnificent jobs, especially Robert Downy Jr., as Iron Man/Tony Stark. Robert Downy stole the movie. He had the best lines, and was just so great.

Overall, the movie was clever, funny, and so much fun from start to finish. It has everything you could want, and lived up to the billing big time. I can see why it's made so much money.

My favorite moments: Hulk punching Thor, just for fun. Black Widow's line in the beginning of the movie: "I'm right in the middle of an interrogation!" Pepper and Tony's cute moments. Tony Stark poking Bruce Banner. When Captain America kicked the crap out of the aliens, and the cop then deciding to listen to his orders. Colson shooting Loki just before the end. Stan Lee's cameo, "Superheroes in New York City? Get out of here." Hulk getting his orders: "Hulk, smash!"

Avengers is an awesome movie. If you haven't seen it. Go see it in the theater. It's going to be an awesome DVD rental as well.

Five Stars, Highly Recommended

Paul Genesse
Author of The Iron Dragon Series
Editor of The Crimson Pact Series

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Most Fascinating Trip to Hell . . . Ever

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Review of A Short Stay In Hell by Steven L. Peck

Most Fascinating Trip to Hell . . . Ever

I’ve been to Hell a few times, but this was my most fascinating trip ever. Sure, my trips were through the eyes of characters in books that went there, but I have felt like I was in Hell on numerous occasions. Don’t even think about comparing the Hell of junior high, or any experience anyone on Earth has ever had to Steven L. Peck’s novella, A Short Stay in Hell. This is like no other journey you or I have ever had. Why? Because our existence here on Earth is just the blink of an eye when compared to the span of time that approaches eternity.

The sheer creativity of this novella (29,000 words) boggles the mind in its breadth and scope, and the writing was so thought provoking and gripping both for atheists and believers alike. It’s great fiction and I read this book in about two hours, and literally did not want to put it down. The 104 pages flew by as I read about Soren Johansson, a forty something year old man who died of brain cancer and ended up in a very different place than he was counting on.

He learns rather quickly from the demon he meets at the start that the only true religion is Zoroastrianism, and only those practitioners go to Heaven. Or perhaps that is a lie. Regardless, poor Soren is condemned along with the others that he meets. Each person goes to their own personal Hell, and Soren ends up in The Library, which is based on George Luis Borges story, “The Library of Babel.”  You don’t need to have read the story to understand this book, and I shall not spoil some of the surprises here, but suffice it to say that Soren must accomplish a task that seems utterly impossible if he wishes to ever leave this terrible place where he has been condemned.

This book is so profound that it had me compulsively mulling over the terrifying implications for the past two days. The opening of A Short Stay in Hell is intriguing, but slightly confusing. It’s a frame story, but the rest of the book was very easy to understand and once I finished the last page all told from poor Soren’s point of view, I instantly turned to the first pages and read the whole first chapter again. It was one of those “wow” moments to go back and read them again.

I read a quote about this work from an author I greatly admire and I think it captures the essence of Peck’s novella flawlessly:

“Profound and disturbing, A Short Stay In Hell is a perfect blend of science fiction, theology, and horror. A terrifying meditation on faith, human nature, and the relentless scope of eternity. It will haunt you, fittingly, for a very, very long time.”
—Dan Wells, author of I Am Not a Serial Killer

I loved reading A Short Stay in Hell and it has given me an understanding of the human condition that I never had before. It’s hard for me to fathom how Steven L. Peck packed so much into this slim volume, or how difficult it was to whittle down this story to the razor sharp book that it is. This is no effete literary or philosophical book that distances the reader from the text. It pulls you in, tugs at your heart, makes you question the meaning of life and love, while being utterly captivating, gripping, exciting, mysterious, hopeful, and above all illuminating on the concept of forever.

View the novella on Amazon.com or visit the authors website here.


A Short Stay in Hell is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
—Paul Genesse, Editor of The Crimson Pact anthology series