The Quatermass Experiment – 1st Edition Paperback

quatermass_experiment_book_500pix

While out and about I managed to get a little steal of a book.  Its an original 1st edition print penguin from 1959 in excellent condition of The Quatermass Experiment by Nigel Kneale.  Its a script not a novel as the Quatermass Experiment was a six part ground breaking television mini-series in the 1950’s broadcast by the BBC.  For those interested in science fiction and especially British science fiction this series was vitally important for the future creation of not only Doctor Who but also films such as Alien and series like the X-Files too.

The book itself is not very impressive by modern standards.  It is very much a product of its times much like the story is.  Drab, plain and poor the book gives off an air of a time when things were grim and tight and also grey.  But it will be great fun for me to write the scripts for its been many years since I saw Victor Carroon slowly change into a monster.   I saw it on TV as a child of some ten years old back in 1980’s and its fair to say it left as big a mark on a young me as Robocop did and Aliens too but in a different way.  A creeping horror of change and alienation too.  The final cathedral scene I know almost word for word.

If you have not heard of or seen Quatermass then I suggest you do.  The book might be hard to get but the TV serial is out there and BBC4 made a single new episode in 2005 which is also very good.

I could not find another of this book for sale online at the time of writing this post but an estimate of its value compared to others of the time would be eighteen to thirty pounds.  So I am very happy and the book is an excellent aesthetic object too.

GBS

Drama – Yes, 1980 – 100th on the List

In a previous post I said I was going to track down the top 100 albums in the Prog Rock magazine count down.  Well I began that journey by purchasing downloads of the one hundreth, ninety nineth and ninety eighth albums on the list.  I began at the top as it seems right to do so and work towards the top ten.  I don’t know how long this will take me and I doubt I will review every album on the list but I will refer to it and let you know as I go.  So….Drama by Yes.  How was it?

“Machine Messiah” and “Tempus Fugit” have rightfully gone down in history as two of the best songs on this album but as I listened to this album ten times over the last three days in the car and at home and by headphones and speakers I felt that the other tracks fell quite short of expectations.  I know its 100th on the list but this is my first experience of Yes as a band so that might have a lot to do with it.   There was a change of vocalist and line up for this album but I did not look this up until after writing down my thoughts.  It does show.  Until I encounter Yes again I will not know if the departing of Jon Anderson as singer made a difference to quality but it did seem to affect the album to my ear.   There are several very weak tracks there including “Does It Really Happen?” which is really, really boring and drawn out.

So purchase it or not?  Well I enjoyed it and if you can get it for under a fiver like I did and you like prog then go ahead.  Amazon link HERE.

GBS

Meeples and Miniatures 128 on Flintloque

A surprise for me this morning as I was made aware that some good lads in the podcast miniature broadcast business had taken the time to review one of the many systems I have authored or otherwise worked on.  In this case it was Flintloque and especially 3rd edition.  Here is the link.  The section on Flintloque begins at 1.04.50 hours into the broadcast (if you want to skip to it) and its very informative.  Have a listen.  I recommend headphones if you have a noisy room around you.

I might take some wee issues with some minor parts of it but then it is my ‘baby’ as it were but overall the fan of Flintloque who champions it in the interview Mike Hobbs fights his corner very well pointing out the adoration that many have for the game and its miniatures.  Along with the high quality and value of the books and rule system.  As he points out its been around for near twenty years now and its been bubbling away the whole time.   Actually just one wee issue…’a fundamental flaw’ with the system.  Sorry its not a fundamental flaw if you simply do not like Flintloque, that is not a flaw its only your choice.  After all WW2 wargaming makes me snore.

Enjoy!

GBS

The Lego Movie – Am I looking too far into it?


Am I not part of normal society now?  Now before you go thinking I have put on a mask and lurk in dark alleys tackling criminals or I have forgotten its the early 21st century and moved to another time zone I have not. What I mean is ‘am I the kind of guy that mainline movies are made for’.  What made me have this thought, well the LEGO movie did.  I had promised my eldest son that he and his brothers could go see it and that happened this weekend.

This film has had rave reviews.  I mean rave.  Aside from the review above which you can watch the film got a 96% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes which is no mean thing.  But I just don’t buy it and here is why.  Firstly I sat in an audience of three hundred most of whom were children and most of them were at times so bemused and bored that they cried, spoke and wandered around (that did not happen during the excellent Despicable Me 2) and secondly the film just made me sad.  Some have said that it pokes fun at the society that created it, the media obsessed, consumerist driven, you are never a failure despite your mediocrity society of the Western World in 2014.  It does but its a veneer that covers the following.

The main LEGO character called Emmett is a vacuum of a man who just wants to fit in with a generic ‘awesome’ template of being ideal in his environment.   The bad guy is called President Business (telling eh!) who does away with everyone who disagrees with him using a fascist police force.  Literally disassembled by the powers that be.   If you fail you get bailed out or soothed by the government if you are rich and important but if you try to be different and you are normal..you are killed.  Special privileges for those in control in manipulation of the masses.   President Business explains that ‘everything must stay the same’ and that building lego on your own is bad, that the elite must stay in control and society must confirm rigidly.  Those at the top want to freeze everything, nothing must change or fail if its important.   Business wants to literally ‘glue everything in place’.  In the film the creativity of builders is brutally repressed for conformity.   Emmett must believe he is special to become special and so he does and the film pokes fun at this but not enough.  Skills don’t come from simply thinking you have them.  Believe and it happens…leads to the dangerous core of this film.  Emmett is passive and vacant and then someone tells you to be in violent conflict with others, you don’t see your own goals and you do not make your own choices.  Its a bleak and a dangerous message.  ‘Believe you are special but only when we give you the power to attack and destroy’.   It is all troubling.  At the end of the movie there is a cop out of the core drive of the film that brings it to a sudden halt before the appearance of Duplo.

Its a veneer to me because it actually left me feeling cold inside.  This is not the times of my childhood with films like The Goonies, Karate Kid, Short Circuit.  Its a veneer that once pushed through covers the fact that actually we are all like the movie portrays us and perhaps our society now is really rather screwed.  Buy the lego kits, don’t create your own designs but you are awesome and you should create your own designs but don’t since you need to conform.  Some scenes actually put me in mind of adult rated war movies.  No hope in this fantasy world.

Did I look too far into it?  Well maybe but I thought I would put my considerations to virtual paper.

Its a fun movie, its fast and its bright and it pushes buttons.  Go see it.  I don’t want to see it again.

GBS

Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos (Kindle) Review

Lines of Departure (Marko Kloos)

Vicious interstellar conflict with an indestructible alien species. Bloody civil war over the last habitable zones of the cosmos. Political unrest, militaristic police forces, dire threats to the Solar System…  Humanity is on the ropes, and after years of fighting a two-front war with losing odds, so is North American Defense Corps officer Andrew Grayson. He dreams of dropping out of the service one day, alongside his pilot girlfriend, but as warfare consumes entire planets and conditions on Earth deteriorate, he wonders if there will be anywhere left for them to go. After surviving a disastrous space-borne assault, Grayson is reassigned to a ship bound for a distant colony—and packed with malcontents and troublemakers. His most dangerous battle has just begun. In this sequel to the best selling Terms of Enlistment, a weary soldier must fight to prevent the downfall of his species…or bear witness to humanity’s last, fleeting breaths.

Back in late December the first book I read with my new Kindle was Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos.  You can read my review of it on this blog here.   I enjoyed it so much that I signed up for the pre-order option to get the sequel and it downloaded into my device on cue two weeks ago.  Now I have been so busy that I have only just now got around to reading it and I did so in two halves over some three hours.  I had been looking forward to learning what had become of the NAC, of Andrew Grayson and the Lankies.  Was it worth the wait?

linesofdeparture_kloos_090214

As is normal for me with my lack of free time the short answer is YES.  I enjoyed this sequel a lot.  I read it fast and with joy.  I would say you need to read the first book for it to make total sense, but you could wing it.  I will not give the plot away but there is action a plenty and though the plot is not as novel as the first book its tighter and Mr Kloos seems to have more fun with it too.  Go and seek it out if you like military sci-fi like what I do (see that professional grammer eh!).  It alternates doom laden depression with souring optimism on the part of the characters and this gives them more depth.  The Lankies are very scary if impersonal foes.   Get it from Amazon here.

I think that the author will craft a third book in the series and after the way ‘Lines of Departure’ ended I have some thoughts as to what will feature in it.  A doomed humanity, back against the wall, confined to half a solar system with an unstoppable enemy.  Seems to me that a miracle weapon will appear to deal with the seed ships and that freedom will come with a realisation of the nature of man.  After all you can’t argue with brute physics.  I am loving this hopefully now series of books.

GBS

Terms of Enlistment – Marko Kloos (Kindle) review

It has been a dream of mine for a number of months to get a Kindle and be able to read all of the science fiction tales to be had through that device which are not availiable in paperback form.  Self Publishing, once the hated bastard offspring of the ‘proper publishing house’ is now in its own element.  It’s a digital age and the world has indeed changed.  I wanted to read of that change for myself and see if things ‘rejected’ by some would be good enough to entertain others.  I also know there will be a lot of let down and dross to wade through too but we can all enjoy that together.   This festive season my good lady surprised me with just such a device and once I had it set up my first port of call was to purchase the ebook Terms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos.  Having had two days off I managed to read the whole novel while attending to all the other madness of the holiday.  So aside from being my first non-paper reading experience in hand what was the book actually like?  Read on for my own review starting with a short web lifted synopsis.

The year is 2108, and the North American Commonwealth is bursting at the seams. For welfare rats like Andrew Grayson, there are only two ways out of the crime-ridden and filthy welfare tenements, where you’re restricted to 2,000 calories of badly flavored soy every day. You can hope to win the lottery and draw a ticket on a colony ship settling off-world, or you can join the service. With the colony lottery a pipe dream, Andrew chooses to enlist in the armed forces for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth. But as he starts a career of supposed privilege, he soon learns that the good food and decent health care come at a steep price . . . and that the settled galaxy holds far greater dangers than military bureaucrats or the gangs that rule the slums.

I began by reading the ‘free sample’ offered on Amazon and this got my attention.  A few pages about Andrew Grayson, a street rat, a potential pointless hoodlum in waiting whose life is going nowhere.  His only chance to get out of the PRC is the army.  The book divides into three main parts and these are firstly the slums and military training, secondly military action on Earth and thirdly adventure among the colonies and a change of pace.  I don’t want to spoil the tale so I will keep it short and loose.  I thought I was reading one novel when I began and another when I finished and do you know what it was bloody good all the way through.  I could complain about typo’s and some editing (the gods know I get them too despite a lot of editing so sod that, it was not enough to spoil the story to any degree) and I could mention the boiler house dialogue in places (some reviewers did but to be honest it made me smile, I like this kind of character speak).  I will mention that the whole book is written in first person perspective and this is no mean feat believe me.  The author does this well and the character grows throughout the novel and you can tell by his mannerisms.   It is military science fiction and the combat scenes work well.  The technology is evident but not overpowering.  Infodumping is there but this is not a problem especially for first person narration.   Characters were well drawn and sparse where needed but rounded where required.  It kept me focused on it.   In short a novel that deserves success and will impress those who want action with a little social-economic thought too.

My opinions were actually mirrored in several of the reviews I read after typing this blog post and that made me laugh.  I will not hide the fact that I should and I could write a novel that would be good for fans of this genre but seriously folks take a dump or get off the can.  Snippy comments by those jade green with envy over another’s success (always success not talent remember that) on forums is just sad.  I tend to avoid comments and leave it with a blog review.

You can read an interview with Marko Kloos on Writers & Artists.  Well worth a read for me as it actually validated my thoughts on self publishing through Amazon to Kindle for the talented writers.  Lastly it also informed me of the authors new work Lines of Departure which is due out late January 2014; its been picked up by an Amazon inprint 47North so in  a way Mr Kloos is no longer self publishing!  Evident to this see below for the new (not designed by the author himself).  He has arrived!

If you like Military Science Fiction then give this a volley of shots.  Its a tungsten flechette of action packed fun that will lift you out of any crummy government apartment in the NAC for a few hours.  I have pre-ordered the sequel this afternoon.

GBS

50th Anniversary Doctor Who success!

Just a quick posting in reaction to last night’s 50th anniversary celebration of Doctor Who on the BBC.  I know, I don’t do reaction postings but on this occasion I will.   There are many critics and reviews of last night’s programme and the live reaction shows and so on which you can fine elsewhere but here is a link to the wiki page about the special episode.

What did the programme do for me?  I thought it was one of the finest of the new and modern episodes that is first off.  My three children sat glued to it for more than an hour which is testament to its quality.  Leaving aside the plot of the episode which the wiki will tell you I will mention my feelings about it as an event.  A cameo by THE Doctor made my night, Tom Baker, they kept that quiet but my feelings from my post yesterday was justified.   The bringing in out of the cold, finally, of Paul McGann who was short changed as the Doctor and is now official canon.  Lastly bringing Gallifrey back from the DEAD!  Can’t emphasis this one enough.  If my thinking is correct it mean that with Moffat at the helm the time lord will return to his roots in the original version of the universe.

Special surprise after ‘Day of the Doctor’ on the BBC ‘red button’, a one off accompanying short film called ‘The Five’ish Doctors’ starring Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Peter Davidson with many other characters appearing.  Well worth a watch and it beat the frankly cringe worthy after party hosted by Zoe Ball.  Have a look at the trailer below.

Well done BBC!

GBS

Ex-Patriots by Peter Clines – Book Review

ex_patriots_cover_300dpi

After I had finished reading Peter Clines first novel in the ‘Ex’ series I was so taken with it that I went out and bought the next TWO in the series (he is still writing the fourth tale set in this fictional universe).  I set to reading Ex-Patriots at the weekend and read it through in just two sittings of an hour or so each.  It moves at a crackling pace.  So just what is it about?

Two years since the dead rose and the plague of ex-humanity decimated mankind. For most of that time, the superhero called St. George, formerly known to the world as the Mighty Dragon, has protected the people of Los Angeles at their film studio-turned-fortress, The Mount. Together with his fellow heroes — Cerberus, Zzzap, and Stealth — he’s tried to give the survivors hope and something like a real life. But the swollen population of the Mount is becoming harder and harder to sustain, and the heroes are feeling the pressure. Hope arrives in the form of a United States Army battalion, based in a complex a few hundred miles away in Arizona. This is not just any base, however. The men and women of Project Krypton are super-soldiers, designed and created before the outbreak to be better, stronger, and faster than normal humans. They want the heroes and all the people of the Mount to rejoin America and have normal lives again. But can the military be trusted? And is there even a country left to rejoin? There is a secret at the heart of Project Krypton, and those behind it have an awesome power that will help them keep that secret hidden. The power of Freedom.

Was it any good?

Yes.  Climes is a pop culture rapid fire author and built on the first book with interwoven themes but also brand new branchings too.  I don’t want to give away the plot as it would spoil your enjoyment but let’s say that Zombies are not the focus this time rather the US Government and its post apocalypse way of dealing with the world.  If you thought that US Marines were the top soldiers in the world, well they are not something rather more enhanced is.  Twists and turns with double dealing is in the book and the last fifty pages took me by surprise.

Well worth reading and it was nice to see Nathan Fillion getting his dues in print.

GBS

Riddick – Film Review

riddick_070913

Fear the Dark…Riddick’s third outing!

I have known Mr Richard Riddick since Pitch Black way back in 2000 when both he and I were quite a bit younger and fitter.  Don’t get me wrong I took my one day off this week and went to the cinema to watch ANYTHING, I just wanted out and about as they say.  So standing in front of the boards looking at what was on at the Odeon only one film jumped out from among the sugar soaked, the digitally cretinous and the British made luvvie fan club and that was Riddick.   As is my way, and you might have guessed, I pay literally no attention to trailers and I don’t read reviews until after I see something so that I can go in fresh with no spoilers.  So tickets were bought (ouch!) and in myself and my good lady went.

Was Riddick any good?  In short yes!  I enjoyed it.

Riddick is a stripped down lean B-Movie of the kind that made Predator and Alien such successes.  Its not on a par with those movies by any means but it has the same narrow focus and small cast with a linear plot structure. It has plenty of action, it has decent special effects.  The characters are all good fun even if their dialogue is of the worst cardboard cut out variety.  Its not trying to be something that it isn’t and this made me happy.  Riddick cracks along at a good pace and it twists and turns often enough not to become boring.  In fact kudos to the film as for really its first third there is no dialogue at all and only the main character on screen as he makes his way on a hostile planet (all non urban planets in this universe are hostile in these movies) aka Robinson Crusoe.  I will not spoil the plot but I will say that the three thirds of Riddick centre around firstly isolation and survival against the wild, secondly the hunt and survival against Humanity and lastly a third of survival against monstrosity.

Special mention must be given to Katee Sackhoff’s breasts which are seen in the film and as a married man I must describe as ‘very nice’ and nothing more but honestly its a naked woman and most of the online commentary about the movie is about this and nothing else.  Which is sad really, its an adult rated action film what do you expect!  Time to offend those who like to be offended me thinks.

Lastly this movie would make a superb series of 15mm or 28mm scale wargame skirmishes so if you are a fan of sci-fi gaming then have a look at it for that reason alone.  The grav bikes are really nice as are the space ship designs and sentry pods and so on.  Good technology for those who like to look at that as well as the naked ladies.

The same lead actor, the same basic plot, the same director.  Riddick goes back to what made Pitch Black excellent and largely succeeds.  Go and see it if you have the time.

GBS

p.s. just remember…someone’s head goes in the box.

Beighton’s Shipyard’s short USEME Starship Battles review

In the inky stellar darkness….

Mark over at Beighton’s Shipyard blog has posted a short review of a wargaming title I partially authored a couple of years ago along with Omer Golan Joel.  Its the sixth in the USEME series and its a set of rules for simple and fast fleet scale starship battles in miniature.

u006cover_ws

I have to say he did a grand job.  Its not a simulation set of complex rules, it was never meant to be.  Its fast and fun and with enough variety and bolt on mechanics to be adaptable to most settings.  I have used it myself several times for everything from dogfights with five a side fighters to a whole fleet of dreadnoughts in the dark and also with Eli Ardnt’s fleet scale mecha for a special robotech style struggle.

Check it out!

Also if you are wondering what ‘The Big Mac’ is…well I know, I wrote it, but you will have to read it to find out!

GBS