Thursday, March 5, 2009

Zerks Log Teaser Released

Story Forge has posted a teaser trailer for their first web series. The 18-episode, sci-fi comedy is entitled “Zerks Log” and is set to premiere this month. The story revolves around the recovered logs of a missing ship, featuring an alien captain who is described as being a couple parts Steve Carrell, a couple parts Captain Kirk, and a several more parts original.

Check out the teaser below and stay tuned to both Legend's Ink and show's website for more details.

To see the teaser in full resolution click the Full Screen toggle or click here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

'Mortal Coils' Released Today

'Mortal Coils' the latest book from best-selling author Eric Nylund hits the shelves today. In the book Eric and Fiona, the incredibly plain fifteen-year-old orphans find not only are their parents still alive by they are immortals. The offspring of a divine goddess and Lucifer himself, the pair find themselves in the midst of a supernatural custody battle. The forces of good and evil put the siblings to a series of tests in order to determine how they may tip the scales of power in their ageless standoff, risking not only their young lives, but the fate of the world as well.

In a creative and thoroughly unique move, Eric and his publisher Tor Books have released a video trailer for the book.

Currently I am reading the novel, but this I can tell you this much so far. Even as an objective reviewer, I am finding it difficult to take myself from turning pages to post this story. I have found the story, thus far, to be original and wholly enjoyable. Check back next week for word on the completed review.

If you are interested in reading a preview for the book, you can find a very long excerpt which is free for download here.

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1 edition (February 3, 2009)
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 1.1 inches

Monday, January 19, 2009

From the Stacks: 'Dies the Fire'

“From the Stacks” is about books, but not the new ones. While we love to look at books that are just coming out, we have stacks and stacks of books already in print. Of those multitudes we seek to find the titles that you may have not heard about but should be adding to you reading list.

Imagine if you will, in an instant technology fails - the internal combustion engine ceases to combust, electronics stop transferring 1s and 0s and gunpowder burns too slowly to produce an explosive discharge. What would you do if in that instant the world ground to a halt, speeding cars careened out of control and airplanes fell from the sky?

This is the question that S.M. Stirling takes on in his book Dies the Fire. Following the mysterious event defined as “The Change”, he follows the people in the Pacific Northwest as he fleshes out an epic tale of the Apocalypse.

Dies the Fire evolves along three plot lines as the contemporary world withers and dies. Lacking modern conveniences famine quickly sets in, pestilence runs rampant and bandits reign unchecked as people struggle for survival. As government fail, the quickest of the major characters to react to “The Change” is the antagonist. Setting up court in Portland, Oregon, this history professor becomes the self-styled “Protector” and establishes himself by recruiting an army from street thugs, motorcycle gangs and the like. Drawing on members of the Society for Created Anachronism he strives to establish a new age of feudalism with his kingdom encompassing the fertile Willamette Valley and beyond.

Opposite this, the protagonists have far less ambitious goals. The first of the two heroes is Mike Havel, a former Force Recon Marine turned air taxi pilot. We first meet Havel as he leads the last passengers he would ever fly from the crash site of his light plane through the mountainous wilds of northern Idaho. Their goal is to reach the passengers’ farm in Oregon, hoping to find the means to subsist once they arrive. Along the way, under Mike’s leadership, the small group recruits others that have skills that would be useful in a world bereft modern technology. The second of the heroes is Juniper MacKenzie. A Celtic folk musician and Wiccan, she takes her Coven and assorted friends to the secluded homestead willed to her by an uncle. Refugees swell their numbers while they re-establish a separate vaguely-historical culture and learn to protect themselves from those who would take what little they have.

For me, the truly enjoyable aspect of this book is the “what if” factor. At a macro level Stirling asks a number of prodding questions. What would happen if conventional machinery failed? How long would it take for society to unravel and for man to loose its humanity? What sort of people would be able to survive? These seem to be typical problems for apocalyptic fiction, but he then adds the twist of taking guns away from his characters, leading to other even more compelling questions. By removing firearms and modern explosives from the story, Stirling forces the characters to draw upon their experiences, heritage, knowledge of history, ingenuity and even literature for the means to survive. This provides an environment where the “what ifs” take on new a dimension. For example: What would happen if, in this technologically-constrained world, a former Marine was forced to survive by partnering with a veteran horse wrangler and a teenage Tolkien fanatic? Stirling changes up the variables by including a Wiccan leader, an agrarian setting and Celtic influences. Finally he adds the villain, a moderately megalomaniac history teacher with a penchant for the Norman brand of feudalism and his loyal following of immoral bullies. Then, Stirling takes these three disparate groups, puts them in the same valley and stirs the pot.

For detractors, I find very little in this book to point to. Although, for some, the fact “The Change” knocked out electronics, internal combustion engines and gunpowder might hinder the suspension of disbelief. On the whole, I feel that Stirling handled this nebulous issue quite well. His characters question how an event that seemed to belay the laws of physics could have come to pass. The author manages to make a bit of a running joke about it, spinning plausibility that some higher power inflicted this upon them, all without ruling out a purely scientific cause. Either way, if you just accept that it did happen you can get into the story. The only aspect of the story that seemed overly serendipitous was the way the various groups managed to run across others who had skills they needed. While this could lend credence to a higher power’s intervention, I attributed this to the fact that to become a survivor one must possess some skill or attribute that enabled their continued existence.

In all, I found the book to offer a wholly satisfying tale with many memorable characters, action and thought provoking motifs. Perhaps most striking aspect of this story, from a readers point of view, is the story offers something new and different to read. Mr. Stirling has created a story that is not the result of some oft seen cookie-cutter plot generation formula. The book should appeal to both fantasy and sci-fi fans alike. Coming in at just under 500 pages it is a respectable length and with satisfying pacing. While it is a stand-alone story, it is also the first in the “Book of Change” series.

I highly recommend you spending time with a copy. Personally, upon reaching the end of the book I immediately headed out for the book that follows it, The Proctors War. But that is another story and another review.

  •  Pages: 496 
  •  Publisher: Roc Hardcover (August 3, 2004)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

From the Stacks: World War Z

“From the Stacks” is about books, but not the new ones. While we love to look at books that are just coming out, we have stacks and stacks of books already in print. Of those multitudes we seek to find the titles that you may have not heard about but should be adding to you reading list.

To be forthright, I am not a horror guy. My tastes are broad enough to encompass Fantasy and SciFi, through military and spy thrillers, but horror, be it books or movies, never was my thing. Besides, I never really had much respect for zombies. What real threat is a stupid, shuffling monster that a two-year-old could outrun?

At least how I used to think. I now know better and am secretly preparing for the coming zombie apocalypse.

The reason for this change of heart is Max Brook’s World War Z- An Oral History of the Zombie War.

“Two hundred million zombies. Who can visualize that type of number, much less combat it?”

an excerpt from World War Z

Mr. Brooks has created something unique in this book, which is not something we often get to say about anything in publishing today. Technically it is a future history tale, but what he has done is tell it through a long series of faux interviews. He tells the story through the eyes of those who “lived” it, following the story from the early appearances of the zombies through the height of the global conflict and into the aftermath. Those he interviews are from all over the world. From South Africa to China, Ireland, the United States and many others, the interviews provide the pieces of a mosaic Brooks skillfully weaves.

For me, perhaps the most striking aspect of his story is the level of detail he provides. As he interviews an individual from one country he provides you with the nuances to make you believe he is actually talking to someone from that area. From prospective to colloquialisms, there is an authenticity that rings through an aspect which truly adds to the realism of the horrors they relate. Similarly, Brooks demonstrates insights into the inner workings, and failings, of governments

and the military that are so horrifyingly realistic that it is scarier then a pack of “Zeds” crashing through your bedroom window.

“The book of war, the one we’ve been writing since one ape slapped another was completely useless in this situation. We had to write another one from scratch.”

an excerpt from World War Z

The book chronicles exactly how governments, institutions, corporations and ultimately society would fail in the face of a true global emergency. As a veteran, I read the interviews from the soldiers who fought the battles and shivered with how Brooks eerily hit on each point of how the bureaucratic Ring Knockers (graduates of West Point) would have approached the fight. I think it was the descriptions of the Battle of Yonkers that I developed a respect for zombies. I could picture myself, M16 in hand, trying to fight zombies the same was as I had been trained to fight the Soviets. Luckily we never found out if those tactics would have worked on the frozen fields of West Germany, but it surely won’t (and didn’t) work on a couple of million living dead.

The book itself does follow a linear story, in a traditional sense, but really doesn’t have that arc of rising action to a climax. Nor was it really meant to. It is very much the sort of book you would see written after any major disaster. After the governments release their official findings on a given tragedy, there is still the human stories that have no place in the sterility of published findings. Brooks sets the tone in the opening pages by telling the reader this and that he is going to tell you the stories of people. Through these tellings we are privy to the entire epic.

Any good review should tell you if the reviewer recommends the item reviewed (as if they have been endowed with some unique grace to possess the one true opinion). Personally, I will tell you to read it- twice. But, if you are the sort who thinks, be prepared to think about things larger than yourself. This is not some Stephen King novel that may scare you a little and be forgotten by the time you toss the book on the shelf. It is a complete picture of the world unraveling. Yes, it is about zombies and zombies aren’t real (I hope). But, if you take this story and replace the word “zombie” with Bird Flu, Ebola, terrorism, imperialism, Rosie O’Donnell or any other potential pandemic the media tells us could sweep the planet, you see exactly how things could fall apart.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go sharpen my Lobo*.

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Three Rivers Press

* “Lobo” is short for “Lobotomizer”, a war time invention that looks like a cross between a double bladed battle axe and a shovel.

NOTE: This post was originally published with Pop Culture Zoo on June 20, 2008