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Preview Episode (Pratchett Tribute and The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch – Seventh Son)

Ryan Sean O'Reilly:

Podcast preview episode

Originally posted on No Deodorant In Outer Space:

PREVIEW PODCAST:

Listen to the podcast here (click to play/right click and select “save target as” to download):

S2P2 – Preview Episode (Pratchett Tribute – The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch – Seventh Son)*

SUBJECT MATTER:

“The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch” by Joseph Delaney

Book: “The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch” by Joseph Delaney

Alternate Title in UK:”Wardstone Chronicles: The Spook’s Apprentice”

“For years, Old Gregory has been the Spook for the county, ridding the local villages of evil. Now his time is coming to an end. But who will take over for him? Twenty-nine apprentices have tried—some floundered, some fled, some failed to stay alive.

Only Thomas Ward is left. He’s the last hope, the last apprentice.” (from Amazon.com)

*** * ***

“Seventh Son” by Sergei Bodrov (Jeff Bridges)

Movie: “Seventh Son” by Sergei Bodrov (Jeff Bridges)

“In a time long past, an evil…

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Posted by on March 15, 2015 in News, Podcast

 

Book Review: “Horns” by Joe Hill (3 Stars)

A fluidly crafted fiction of magical-realism that twists away from common story-telling pitfalls.

Ig Perrish has been tried and convicted for the rape and murder of his longtime girlfriend—in the court of public opinion. However, he has not been tried in the court of law. Instead of taking the reader on a crusade to clear the good name of the protagonist, the author takes a side turn into a supernatural introspection on good and evil.

I really enjoyed the supernatural elements present in this book, and the modern underplaying and unique twist on classic Christian mythology. Ig Perrish grows horns. Quite literally. This aspect of the story was fun and well balanced, just as you might find in other modern writers like George R.R. Martin. The protagonist has “powers,” but there are logical and understandable limits that allow this aspect of the tale to inform the story, devoid of any kind of deus ex machina contrivance. The nuances are played well, and imagery artfully constructed from well-established traditions. The pitchforks and snakes were fun and fitting elements to give the story an ethereal feel without feeling extraneous or over-played. One of the elements of Ig’s special powers is that people’s darkest secrets and desires are revealed to him. This idea has been done many times over, but the author’s take on it feels fresh. Ig’s not consumed with seeing the worst in people—at least that doesn’t make up the bulk of the story. There are other stakes at play.

The book is divided into chapters, which in turn are grouped into five major sections that allow for time and point of view switches. In one sense, this is a short tale—what really happened the night that the protagonist’s girlfriend is murdered? Yet, I found myself moving along at a decent pace and feeling like the author was close to wrapping up one of the mysteries, when the story would stop and switch gears providing new revelations from a different perspective. This is a sort of classic “mystery” or “crime-story” device that works well as we masticate over the various details we’re allowed to chew on. With each new pass, we learn just enough to keep us hooked for another run—cumulatively inching toward the conclusion. Effective story telling.

The characters were written well. The chief antagonist is believable in the classic sense of a true sociopath, and we really see how much havoc can be caused by an utter detachment from life as a fatal flaw. The protagonist and his strained relationship with those close to him were developed well also. Especially notable was the complicated relationship between Ig and his increasingly detached best friend, Lee. The push and pull struggle which the protagonist agonizes over regarding their friendship felt real and was very compelling. This was the strongest element of the story.

There are some interesting esoteric aspects in this book. Is the protagonist the devil, or is he becoming the devil? Who is the devil and what does it mean to be the devil, or a devil? Is there purpose behind the plight of the anti-hero? A wonderful aspect of this, is that we don’t have to waste time with some kind of annoying struggle where the protagonist fights to hang on to his humanity and free his sole from damnation. None of that comes into this story. An easy trap to fall into, but done to death. So, Hill gets kudos for that.

Still, I would have liked to see a bit more depth in the book. The story flows quite nicely. The main characters are real enough, and their actions are believable in the contexts their given. I felt that we were digging very deep into the emotions at stake. We cared about the characters and the awful things happening to them, and we rooted for the hero (or anti-hero) to raise his flag and champion his cause. Only, what was it all for? There is revenge, yet not so much vindication. Maybe that’s a good thing—maybe that’s more original than other authors might have attempted? I’m not sure.

Another minor gripe I had was the over-the-top puns that increase in the second-half of the story. The author’s style becomes rather tongue-in-cheek as he plays off trite devil references, like classic songs about or mentioning the devil or using the word “damn” a lot. Not a big deal, it just became silly.

Hill has a fluid writing style. He sets up a few key mysteries and drops in reveals at appropriate times so that the story comes to a satisfactory conclusion. This is a well-crafted tale of magical realism intermixed with elements of mystery and crime.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes, YouTube or our website.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: “Horns” (book/movie) Joe Hill – Alexandre Aja (Daniel Radcliffe)

Ryan Sean O'Reilly:

New podcast Episode!

Originally posted on No Deodorant In Outer Space:

PODCAST:

Listen to the podcast here (click to play/right click and select “save target as” to download):

S2E1 – Horns (book/movie)*

WRITTEN BOOK REVIEWS:

Ryan: 3 Stars “…A fluidly crafted fiction of magical-realism that twists away from common story-telling pitfalls…

Wilk: 3 Stars “… …

Rick: 4 Stars “The story itself was fairly simple but Hill made it a suspenseful page turner with a narrative that methodically and semi-sequentially spoke through each character’s perspective of the tragic events...

(Click the links to read full written reviews on Goodreads.com)

SUBJECT MATTER:

“Horns” by Joe Hill

Book: “Horns” by Joe Hill

“Joe Hill’s critically acclaimed, New York Times bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-winning debut chiller, Heart-Shaped Box, heralded the arrival of new royalty onto the dark fantasy scene. With Horns, he polishes his well-deserved crown. A twisted, terrifying new novel of psychological…

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Posted by on March 1, 2015 in News, Podcast

 

Book Review: “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne (3 Stars)

Captain Nemo’s slow but compelling rise to the surface gives this adventure enough buoyancy to savor the flavor of a Victorian travelogue (and early science fiction progenitor).

Many who read this classic, very early work of science fiction will complain about the lists. Oh the lists! The countless words, commas, scientific classifications, and rampant cataloging of sea creatures and sea plants. Yes, Verne occasionally provides some curious and interesting descriptions of these plants and beasts to help paint the setting, but many times he simply lists them in typical travelogue fashion (i.e. I saw this, and then this, and then this, and then we saw this eat that.). I count myself among these nay-sayers—to an extent. I’ll admit to having my eyes gloss over the lists.

That said, I also fond myself perusing the internet to look up some of these crazy beasties and subsequently fall into a loop of YouTube videos to see them in action. Verne did that too. And that’s good writing—making someone want to learn. Even when Verne got some of the descriptions wrong (though he probably had them right for the knowledge that was available at the time), he still opened up the sea to me, just as well as a fantasy writer might create a new world – except I live this world and these things do exist and I can check them out on the internet (or in person if I ever wanted to go the non-virtual route). So, while I did feel the listing went on ad nauseum– it also drew me in at times.

Verne has interesting characters in his book, which can easily be dismissed as “flat” by the casual reader. Professor Aronnax, the chief protagonist is a true professor at heart. He is drawn into the wondrous scientific adventure unfolding around him and finds it difficult to resist. He’s balanced against the other protagonist, a Canadian Harpooner who is a man of action and common sense that prefers to make decisions based on his instincts. In between them is Conceil, Aronnax’s agreeable sidekick. All these characters seem to fulfill a role and play to their respective typecasts throughout the story. However, they do grow (albeit slowly), even though their actions and words might seem generic at first. The pieces eventually fall in place, and we see that Aronnax cannot rationalize everything for the mere scientific adventure of it all. Land’s cantankerous attitude is fitting, and we watch him struggle when it fully sets in that he is trapped in an environment that stifles his attributes as a hard-working “doer.” In fact, Land’s bitterness and gut-instincts prove to be the grounding force to which Aronnax must cling when things go bad for the protagonists. Even the reticent and happy-go-lucky Conceil makes a transition by developing a bond with the increasingly disagreeable Land–as if he thinks the Professor might be too far adrift in the sea of academia.

Then there is Captain Nemo. He’s the farthest from flat among all the characters in this book. At first, he is a fearless and seemingly unbeatable force of stalwart principle. Admittedly, Nemo is kept in the shadows for most of the book. He is off screen a lot, and when he comes back on stage it is usually with much bravado. Also, he never really fails in what he does. Yet, the little nuggets of insight, which Jules Verne does reveal, tumble out with significance. These short glimpses into this compelling character paint an inner darkness that is interesting and disturbing. The plot of Captain Nemo, in and of itself is excellent and fitting.

It’s hard to review this book without at least mentioning how far-seeing Verne was by writing about submarines, tasers, and untethered underwater breathing devices that didn’t exist at the time. This is the stuff of “great” science fiction. These elements of hard science and using the minds creativity to go beyond the limits of contemporary advancements are amazing. What a great mind.

Oh yeah, there’s adventure too! Verne’s hard science is intermixed with a good number of dramatic conflicts. Sometimes they are simply man versus beast. Other times he pits the men against Mother Nature. Then there is the subtle man versus man conflict between Captain Nemo and his uninvited “guests.” Some of these scenes are downright tense, and they get better and better as the story progresses.

Verne also had some interesting progressive views going on in this book. For example, the characters make admonishments about over-fishing. Yet, this book is about seamen, so plenty of good fishing takes place. It’s perhaps an interesting conflict, yet a refreshingly realistic viewpoint as these types of issues are not often so black and white.

The adventure aspect of this story works too. The oceans come alive. Besides his descriptions of underwater flora and fauna, Verne’s description of things like the “Gulf Stream” give you a better sense of the various ecosystems that inhabit this planet and how they fit together—very cool. Like a master fantasy writer, Verne makes the sea seem as foreign and as familiar as a made-up world.

My only regret is that this is a work of translation and apparently, some of the English translations of this book cut out significant portions of the author’s original work. I can only wonder how the author’s work reads in his native tongue. What did I lose out on? Even still, I enjoyed the work and not just for what it is or given the context of its time. Mostly I enjoyed this story for the traveling undersea adventure that made me want to learn a bit more about the world’s oceans.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” (book/movie) Jules Verne – Richard Fleischer (Kirk Douglas) – Rod Hardy (Michael Caine)

Ryan Sean O'Reilly:

New Podcast Episode!

Originally posted on No Deodorant In Outer Space:

PODCAST:

Listen to the podcast here (click to play/right click and select “save target as” to download):

S1E12 – Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (book/movie)*

WRITTEN BOOK REVIEWS:

Ryan: 3 Stars “…Captain Nemo’s slow but compelling rise to the surface gives this adventure enough buoyancy to savor the flavor of a Victorian travelogue (and early science fiction progenitor)…

Wilk: 4 Stars “…If you are interested in reading a classic this would be an excellent place to start. Especially if you have a short attention span, like the author of this review…

Rick: ? Stars “…(to come) …

(Click the links to read full written reviews on Goodreads.com)

SUBJECT MATTER:

“Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne

Book: “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne

“The “man who invented the future,” French novelist Jules Verne fanned mankind’s desire to…

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Posted by on February 1, 2015 in News, Podcast

 

Mildred – now available for iBook-Nook-Kobo-Google Play-Smashwords

My novelette of of psychological suspenseful fiction is finally available in multiple ebook platforms. You can now get “Mildred” from iTunes, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble (nook), Kobo, and Google Play.

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Click here to get for Kobo

google play button (trimmed)

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2015 in Mildred, News

 

Book Review: “The Children of Men” by P.D. James (4 Stars)

Mass infertility leaves a dwindling society listless and jaded, but hope and faith lies in the hands of the meek. This story has a reflective deepness.

In the near future, for inexplicable reasons, humans have lost the ability to reproduce. The backdrop of this story is the slow descent of a dystopian decay. As others have noted, there is no cataclysmic event that sends this world into spiraling chaos. No asteroid has crashed into the planet and spread a galactic virus. Instead, people just stop having babies and slowly and steadily, things just get weirder and weirder. People are just going on with life with no youth about the place to inherit their progress and mistakes. Interestingly, the natural world is gradually creeping back into the life of man, squeezing in from all sides. The wilds of the world are returning.

We see the story through the perspective of the main protagonist, Theo, who is a professor. The author switches between diary entries by Theo and a third-person narrative. The flipping back and forth is a strange choice, and I’m not sure if I liked that element. The point of this was to build-up Theo’s background and flesh out his relationship with the story’s chief antagonist, his cousin, Xan.

Theo’s whole life has been ineffectual, spending most of his childhood growing up in the shadow of Xan whom excelled at everything he set his mind too. Both Xan and Theo have sort of detached relationships with their families and people in general, however it’s clear that Xan is even more detached. Xan’s character seems to be ambitious merely for the challenge of it. As if Xan has sat back and observed society simply to figure out what people consider interesting and then decided that that is what he ought to do. Indeed his adept abilities propel him so far a front that he manages to get himself appointed dictator of England in this new world, taking the title “Warden”.

Xan has managed to take power, but maintains some illusion of democracy by installing three goals for this government’s last hurrah in the fading future: freedom from fear, freedom from want, and freedom from boredom. He caters to the base needs of man. The Isle of Man becomes a dumping ground for prisoners and dissidents and nobody even dreams of forgiveness and redemption or second chances. People are forced to learn skills that will be necessary in the future. Fertility tests are mandatory for society’s best and brightest in the hope that there might still be a small chance that someone will be able to reproduce. The old are encouraged to end their lives with dignity before they become too much a of a burden on society’s waning population, a phenomenon called “The Queitus.” Also, the state has opened pornography centers to cure boredom.

Theo, being Xan’s cousin, enjoyed an advisory role on the Warden’s special council. However, when the story begins, we learn that Theo has left this position because he discovered that nobody really cared what he had to say. We get the impression that even though, he had no real “voice” in things, Xan wanted him there–perhaps as a last vestige of human connection. Both of them are detached, but they have no real family relationships other than each other. That bond can’t seem to die, however seemingly unimportant the two make of it.

The character of Theo is deeply flawed and it is difficult to completely give over to him. We learn that his life is marred by a failed marriage, one that he had entered into because his chosen mate seemed to fit all the necessary requirements. He was never motivated by love. He doesn’t seem to know how to love. This trait is, of course, echoed ten-fold by Xan, whose decisions are based on reason, pragmatic rationality and ambition. However, Theo’s past is further scarred by the horrible death of his own child, which he has disassociated himself from.

What is really deep and profound in this story, is the love that does motivate these two apathetic characters. Theo has not ever learned what love is and perhaps Xan’s detached disposition has rubbed off on him. So, when Theo leaves the Warden’s council he has an opportunity for personal growth.

Xan is driven by ambition and power and though his methods are cruel, he seems to lack a sadistic mindset or will. He doesn’t have these kind of feelings. Steps are taken which will bring about the logical results he wants. If certain unpleasantness must be engaged to accomplish his goals, then that is just what is necessary–he takes no particular pleasure from this. Is Xan an amoral Vulcan?

And yet, there is still a thread of desire in Xan for something more. He hangs onto Theo as if the protagonist is his last chance at being a “real” person. Theo is his sole representative of family—of brotherhood—of connection beyond simply a means to an end. He is not happy that Theo has left the council, but he will not dismiss him outright—even when he suspects Theo is plotting against him. In the inevitable show down between the two, Xan loses himself. Although it is not immediately apparent, I feel that Xan has hesitation about ending their relationship, not simply by happenstance, but because there is some tiny, fractional, minuscule, infinitesimal part that wants to feel love and a true connection or bond with another human. Perhaps Xan knows that if Theo is gone, then so is his last remaining piece of humanity? This trope of evil incarnate is not necessarily new, but it is so very believable for this character. Darth Vader had trouble killing Luke even at the behest of his boss, the Emperor.

The somber mood pervading this story, the awful lingering question of “What’s the point of anything anymore?” is well developed by PD James. How quickly would society devolve into chaos and struggle to hold order when the future is taken from it? This story is a strong exploration into the meaning of life. So much of living seems to be purposed on propagation, people’s ability to leave something behind of themselves to share with the world. And yet, intermixed with this is mankind’s self-awareness. Beyond reproduction–what then? Perhaps that is the back on which society is born—the building block of morals and values? Of mutual respect and dignity.

Theo’s redemption from abject callousness begins with the Five Fishes. This small group of miscreants has formed as a counterpoint to Xan’s puppet council of advisors. The group protests the apathy in which society is fading away. The lack of dignity in it all. They seem to cry out, that there is a point to life beyond the mere continuation of the species, beyond satisfaction of man’s most base animalistic needs. Being a direct relation to Xan, the group seeks Theo’s intercession—a last plea for change before things need to resort to violence. Theo is still floundering in his pointless existence and not particularly motivated to help them, so they urge him to see things as they really are. Here we learn that, unsurprisingly, Xan is not really meeting all society’s needs as well as he could. People are baptizing pets and treating dolls with unnatural attachment. The solution to crime, removing all troublemakers to an island to fend for themselves, may not be so straightforward a solution as it seems. And of course the Quietus, Theo is finally turned to the rebel cause, when he realizes that these dignified suicides are not so dignified or voluntary as he was led to believe when he was employed by Xan.

The second part of the book becomes a sort of “Lord of the Rings” quest, when Theo wholly throws his lot in with the Five Fishes and they must race against time to fulfill their destiny. They scramble through the wilder parts of the world and attempt to do this one thing that might change everything, if only they can be left alone long enough to let it happen. It’s not so difficult to suspect what this might be, or where this story will end up. Yet, what is heartfelt is the sacrifices that the characters must make to accomplish their goal. Even more important is Theo’s discovery that he can actually feel real empathy and genuine love. The protagonist’s progression from his apathetic beginnings, devolution and surrender into ultimate detachment until at last he finds redemption for his soul and a purpose for all the buried pain is heartfelt. This is the real story. The imperfection of love and life and society, and how these pieces do not fit so cleanly together. In the end, Xan’s more rational, more calculated and more reasonable stratagems cannot win. Theo’s character is well-crafted and perhaps masterfully developed in his faults, and faltering growth.

This book is the sort of thing that moves along at a decent enough pace. I’m not familiar with PD James’ other works, but I suspect this one differs from her more “thriller” type background. Initially, Theo’s career as an Oxford professor and his strange relationships in this dystopian future are stuffy and not overly interesting. That said, the setting is intriguing enough to peak your interest from the outset and the story finds its legs as it progresses along. However, the deeper themes and questions and evolving relationships are such that you don’t get a sense of what’s happened until you’ve finished reading. Then you set the book down and later it hits you. Wow.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes or our website (www.nodeodorant.com).

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2015 in Book Reviews

 

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