Movie Round-Up: December 3rd, 2010

The Warrior's WayThe Warrior’s Way: (official site)

Next year the movies will be invaded by Cowboys & Aliens.  This year we get Cowboys & Ninjas.  This movie looks absolutely ridiculous, and that may be the thing that makes it a success.  I mean, the story is about a ninja assassin who is ordered to kill a baby that is the last member of a particular family.  He refuses and flees to America where he hides in a small town until the ninjas catch up with him to finish the job, kill the baby and kill him for his betrayal.  I highly doubt that I’ll go to the theater to see this movie, but it will make the top of my Netflix list because this movie must be seen.

The Round-Up posts are less fun when only one movie comes out.  Less photoshopping involved…


Boneshaker by Cherie PriestThis weekend I finally turned the last page of Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker.  It took me nearly two months to polish this one off, and I feel like I both enjoyed it and didn’t enjoy it at the same time.

First off, the book contains two elements I like: steampunk and zombies.  The story is thus: In 1880s America (or there about), Seattle has been partly/largely destroyed by an event in which a machine ran amok, dug a giant hole under the city causing the release of some weird gas that makes people sick and turns them to zombies.  The remains of the city are walled up and a small industry has risen from the distillation of the gas into other products (drugs mostly).  People still live in the walled city, pumping in safe air from high up (the weird gas is heavy and sits within the walls like liquid in a bowl) and using gas masks when needing to venture outside.  The son of the man responsible, having never known his father, enters the city to learn more, and his mother goes in after him.  Overall, a well formed world is crafted by Priest and the elements of the tale are interesting.  If you really love zombies or steampunk, I recommend the book.

On the other hand, if you aren’t hardcore into either or both, I might wave you off.  Priest’s book is dense.  She is working hard to craft a world here, and sometimes I felt like that got in the way of the story.  Numerous times, for me, the book came to a halt while she took the time to describe objects and places and how things were.  In stark contrast, her action sequences were quick and lively, and made the non-action seem that much slower.  Because of this, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

So, I cautiously recommend Boneshaker.  I enjoyed it overall, but at times felt like I was slogging through it just to finish.

The First Law

Man, it has been a while since I reviewed a book that wasn’t a comic on here… but there is reason for that: I’ve been slogging through Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy (one, two, three).

Initially, I was going to review each book separately, but then I got to the end of the first book.  I enjoyed it, I liked what I had read, but it really felt like a good start and not a full book.  So I had a hunch, and rather than my usual running off to a new book and coming back to the second book later, I decided to run through all three.  These are big(ish) books, and I’m a slow reader anyway… but I finally did it, and now…

I really want to give this book a high rating.  Notice, I said book and not trilogy.  That’s because this trilogy reads more like a single book broken into three parts instead of three complete stories that work as part of a larger arc.  By the end of the first book you have been introduced to the characters and the world and the politics and wars and history and everything, and a number of exciting things has happened, but all those things don’t add up to anything satisfying.  Nothing is really resolved in the first book.  The second book is more of the same, and I mean that in both good and bad ways.  More people, more events, but the only real events that occur are one expected failure and one unexpected failure.  The second book did seem more rounded than the first, but it still left me wanting.  Not wanting for more, but wanting for the book to have meant something.  The third book reads like a good third act.  All the people and places coming crashing back together and lots of things coming to an end.

Overall, this trilogy would, in my opinion, benefit from some heavy editing, trimming this story down to one novel, or perhaps two.  I get the feeling that maybe the author had an idea and decided he wanted it to be a trilogy and fleshed the story out until it was.  A number of chapters could easily be cut, others trimmed and combined, and perhaps even the world itself could have been shrunk just a tad in order for the author not to feel like he needed to illustrate just how long certain journeys were.  I suppose my complaint is the same that I have for the Lord of the Rings, The First Law is like a travelogue.  We walk the world and are shown everything, but seeing that seminal work of fiction trimmed down to under 9 hours of script without losing one bit of the magic of the original, I think The First Law could be just as good at half the length.

That said, I look forward to read more by Joe Abercrombie.  The main reason for this is that after finishing this trilogy I thoroughly despise most of his characters, and yet I found myself rooting for them.  That is something hard to do, in my opinion.  To craft character that are not only flawed but flat out wrong and still get the reader to want them to survive, to be redeemed even when the character themselves is seeking no redemption.  I find myself having imaginary conversations with the author, “Hey, I really want to like this guy, could you please stop making him do horrible things?”

Anyway… would I recommend these books?  I would, maybe not to everyone, but to people who like a good well crafted world akin to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series and are willing to put up with one story being told in three books and 1,500 pages.


I just spent the last couple of months wading through Orcs by Stan Nicholls.  On the surface, the conceit of this book is quite inventive: let’s tell a fantasy story from the point of view of orcs.  Of course, the moment you delve into the book, the orcs aren’t the orcs of Tolkien or other authors, these orcs are noble warriors who live for battle and only do evil because they are conscripted into the service of a dark sorceress.  So, immediately the book is less inventive than originally thought.  More so once the featured warband, the Wolverines, go off on their own in defiance of their mistress.

Overall, the book is a decent fantasy tale.  Typical, almost, which was a let down when prior to picking it up I was led to believe it was going to break the mold.  As the book wore on, and part of the reason it took me so long to slog through it, parts of the prose just feels like filler, as if the author wanted to get to the “cool” part but didn’t want to just jump cut straight to it between chapters and instead wrote a chapter or two to bridge the events.  It detracted from the book, for me.  I think the same story could have been told with greater effect if it had been half as long, tighter.

I’m not sure I’d recommend this book to others.  Perhaps if they were die hard fantasy fans who regularly read mediocre novels they might find this to be excellent.  But for me, it was just okay.

I am a Twit

I suppose it was inevitable.  Eventually, Internet social tools become so strong that I end up joining in.  First there was MySpace, then Facebook and LinkedIn, and now Twitter.  In case you can’t follow that link, my name on Twitter is Jhaer, the same as my Xbox Gamertag.  There is a story behind that name which I don’t often share.

On the bright side, I am considering deleting my MySpace page because I barely go there anymore.  One should be mindful of one’s Internet Footprint and not leave inactive accounts all over the place.  Its kind of like “Going Green” but digitally…

The Awesomest Story Ever Told

That is the title of my NaNoWriMo project this year.  Originally I was going to work on something called Necromancer, but I stalled out on it really early on and after a few days being totally stuck I decided to bail on it in favor of something that will be far easier to write.

So, what is The Awesomest Story Ever Told?  It is the tale of a clan of ninjas who protect the world from threats of the undead who encounter a spaceship from the future crewed by two astronauts, a monkey and a robot who have traveled back in time to prevent a zombie apocalypse.  Right away they discover that the apocalypse of the future was the product of a group of mad scientists who unleashed the zombie hordes in their bid to overthrow all the governments of the world.  As the scientists activate their own time machine and slip away, our heroes reconfigure the spaceship from the future to follow them.  It is a journey through history fighting for the future and encountering everything awesome that has ever existed.

As you can see, my basic story already contains much awesome.  Ninjas, zombies, astronauts, a monkey, a robot, mad scientists, spaceships and time travel.  There are already plot points to include dinosaurs, cavement, pirates, wild west gunfighters, sharks, vampires, werewolves, a medieval castle and knights, but this story needs to include all of the awesome.  All of it.

So, I implore you, every reader, suggest something (or many things) that is awesome.  Feel free to explain why it is awesome, or don’t.  Just suggest awesome and I will try to work it in to the story, and I’ll give credit to the first person to suggest an item of awesome should this work ever see publication of any form.

P.S. I Love You

13 out of 13 nots
for making me weep little man tears

Unlike other reviews, this one won’t be a two parter, there will be nothing after the break, there will be no break. The story is this: a man and a woman love each other, but they also fight a lot, until he gets a brain tumor and dies, and somehow through a myriad different ways he has arranged for his widow to receive letters he has written, about one a month, each as a step in a plan to make sure she continues her life now that he’s gone.

This is the first perfect 13 out of 13 I’ve given and its because I really do feel that this movie is that extraordinary. It is funny, and loving, and heart warming, and it hurts. Everyone in the movie gives an outstanding performance and for something that I thought would be another throwaway chick flick my wife would drag me to, I am simply floored at how it managed to move me.

The only drawback to this film is that now if I go first, my wife will expect her series of letters… better get to work then. 🙂

And wife, if you read this… P.S. I love you.

Carpe Demon

The wife convinced me to read Carpe Demon by Julie Kenner. The story is basically Buffy the Vampire Slayer, if she got married, had kids and grew up.

It is a fun book, not horribly complex, but enough that I’ll read the other books in the series at some point (but not now, I tend to avoid reading series books back to back).

Hellboy: Unnatural Selection

Man… I really am digging these Hellboy books. They sort of take a stab toward horror without getting into any of the cheesy melodrama that some horror has. Writer Tim Lebbon takes his shot at Hellboy with Unnatural Selection.

The story here is that someone is bringing back all the monsters of legend, pulling them right out of the Memory. He’s setting them loose on Earth, and its up to the BPRD to find out why and stop it, because the dragons and sea monsters are starting to eat lots of people.

Like other Hellboy books, its one part horror and one part action, with a dash of comedy. The blend is so perfect that the pages pratically turn themselves. The writing was good enough that I’m going to seek out more Tim Lebbon books. Thumbs up for the lastest Hellboy.