Book Review: In Ashes Born by Nathan Lowell

I’ve listened to all six preceding stories of the life of our protagonist Ishmael Wong and I have pretty much loved each one.

With Nathan Lowell’s handling of these books I know I’m getting a quality story. What makes them really stunningly crafted is the fact that rarely does something hugely dramatic happen. In Ashes Born is no different. It’s just the next part of Ishmael Wong’s life and I was hanging on every word! In another writers hands none of these stories would work. Lowell keeps the same pace, tone, and quality of the previous six novels.

This is a solid continuation of this story, and I am looking forward to the next chapter in the life of Ishmael Wong.

I will just say I was worried about having someone other than Nathan Lowell narrate this universe, but Jeffrey Kafer got it absolutely bang on perfect!

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Alien:Covenant

This film has been on my mind a fair bit since its release. I had mixed feelings going into it due to Prometheus. Prometheus is a movie I think is very beautiful to look at and has some decent bits in, but overall is a bit of a mess. It feels like it’s trying to tell two stories by two different camps from the production standpoint. In one camp you’ve got the urge to make an prequel film for the Alien franchise, and the other camp want to make a film about creationism. Add in some daft elements in the script (run off to one side!) and we’ve got a film which is hard to love, also the technology is massively advanced compared to the other films. I know the Prometheus is an advanced space craft but they could have easily made the tech look like that of the previous films (Sorry, this is something that really bugs me!).

The problem of what film is being made carries on into Alien:Covenant. On one side we’ve got a story about colonists wanting to find a new world to settle on, then on the other side we have the urge to look at this creationist storyline. I’ve watched this movie maybe half a dozen times now and I really believe there is a good movie in here, if you take away that creationist element, and some of the dumb-ass choices the characters make. There’s a bit early on about a funeral that shows there is friction between the characters, but it feels ham-fisted. The funeral is forbidden due to repairs needing to be done, but the repairs could wait and the funeral is brief. It feels like it’s there just to create conflict.

If they took away the David storyline, the plot device of wondering off to another planet and just had a story about colonists arriving at a new planet to then find it was once inhabited by an alien race that died out. Then they find an egg and chaos ensues. Why couldn’t we have had that movie? Up until David shows up we’ve got the makings of a really good atmospheric horror movie and then it slips into a psycho-robot-with-delusions-of-being-a-god movie.

When I think about the original Alien movies they were pretty straightforward. Horror and action pretty much, what you saw was what you got. They never really felt like there was a grander story happening that needed to be addressed. They were just what they were. There was social commentary there, but it was subtle. You didn’t feel like you were being hit over the head with it. Maybe that’s what they need to get back to. Imagine the type of social commentary we could of had in this film if it had been about landing on a planet for colonisation only to discover these horrific aliens that had maybe already wiped out an alien species that had been on the planet before.

Where this series goes in the future, I don’t know. There’s rumours that this new generation of Ridley Scott Alien movies is a trilogy and there’s a third part coming, but this movie didn’t do especially well. So I’ve got to wonder if Fox will give it one more go, drop the franchise for the time being, or go in an entirely different route altogether.

Time will tell, but I know how I’d like it to go.

Book Review: Billy and the Cloneasaurus by Stephen Kozeniewski

This book rocked! I described it to a friend as being 1984 meets The Lego Movie! I didn’t really have any idea of what to expect. I hadn’t read the synopsis or any reviews of it. I just knew it was by an author I wanted to check out.
What really sticks with me is the tone throughout the story is pretty level regardless of what’s happening, but that’s just a thin covering of the real tone of the story.

I listened to the audiobook of this one and the narration by Steve Rimpici was perfect for the book. he got the tone just right.

Billy and the Cloneasaurus was right up my street and is a fantastic modern day dystopian that is gripping and memorable. Definitely worth checking out!

Beyond Skyline

Okay, if you’ve been reading my blog for a few years now you’ll have seen the odd post/rant I’ve written about the movie Skyline, directed by The Brothers Strause. Without going into another full blown post about Skyline my biggest complaint was not enough attention was on the live action sequences and too much was spent on the CGI, which granted was very beautiful. It just didn’t fulfil an amazing potential I thought.

Beyond Skyline was not Skyline, it took that potential and made a movie I enjoyed a lot. The CGI looks beautiful, the plot line kept my attention and the actors held the screen well, and more importantly I cared about what happened to them. Frank Grillo and Bojana Novakovic were both very good, and I enjoyed Iko Uwais as well. It was fun seeing Callan Mulvey playing a role which wasn’t a mercenary as well.

I liked how the story went from the events in Skyline and took it further and looked at what was going on in a lot more depth and moves across the globe a little and we see how the invasion is being looked at by another culture. We saw a lot more of the aliens and their little world as well. I really liked the final confrontation at the end of the movie. Not only is there some great CGI action, but some of the fighting the characters do on the ground level is beautiful! The Choreography is very well done.

This is the first film where I’ve seen Iko Uwais and I liked him a lot. He held the screen well and when acting opposite an actor of Frank Grillo’s calibre you need that.

The whole cast was pretty solid I thought, no one felt out of place and none of them felt ‘Meh’ for lack of a better phrase. I thought they felt genuine, we don’t know what we’ll be capable of until we’re pushed out of our comfort zones.

There was a couple of moments where I found my eyebrow raising a little but nothing drastic that took me out of the film any more than a passing second.

I was a little anxious that this was Liam O’Donnell’s directing debut, but I liked where he took the story (he wrote it as well). Some of the visuals were stunning and he got a great balance between the live action and the CGI. They complimented each other very well. Overall I liked his direction and I really hope they do more of these. I will definitely be looking out for what O’Donnell does in the future.

Overall, Beyond Skyline is a film that’s well worth watching. I’m glad I’ve brought it on Blu-Ray as I think I will be re-watching it more than a few times.

The Warmaster by Dan Abnett

I’ve just finished The Warmaster by Dan Abnett and wow! What a book! I loved how Abnett put this together and how it was tied into Salvations Reach (of which I’m glad I listened to immediately before embarking on The Warmaster). I’d guess there’s a lot more connections in the books that have lead up to The Warmaster, but it’s been a few years since I’ve read them. (I’m really hoping they come up on Audible because I really want to read them again, and listening is quicker for me as I can listen while at work).

The Warmaster picks up for Gaunt and his Ghosts right after their mission to Salvations Reach, but all is not right with their return.

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Such a beautiful edition.

Now, I am a huge fan of this series of books, this being the fourteenth, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating this one since I first heard about it a little while ago. There was a gap of time between Salvations Reach and The Warmaster, but it was worth the wait. Dan Abnett really turns things up to eleven in this book. He pushes characters into places that I wasn’t expecting, but that said I wasn’t really sure what to expect. With the Gaunt’s Ghosts books it feels like each book goes in somewhat of a different direction. This one is no different. A lot of the events in this book I didn’t see coming or where they were going to go.  A lot of the characters had their lives turned upside down and Abnett wasn’t scared to kill any of his characters. That is something I learnt a long time ago about Abnett with this series. He is not afraid to kill the most beloved of characters, often in brutal and unfair ways. Even in war where people die for what can be the most silly of reasons, some of the deaths in these books have been a huge kick in the gut. Even when a character doesn’t die, but they are pushed into something harsh and tough to stomach it feels the same as when a loved character dies.

That is one of Abnett’s biggest strengths I think. He can write these stories with a huge cast of characters and you either love or hate them, with the odd middle of the road character in between. You get their motivations, you get their mentalities. It all works very well.

This book really opened up a whole can of hell yeah! And it puts so much out on the table for future novels that has left me bouncing and determined to re-read the previous books again in the new year.

There are many reasons why Dan Abnett is one of my favourite writers, the Gaunt’s Ghosts series is one of them. Beautifully written, to the point where you’re almost there when the las-bolts are flying.

***Very Minor Spoilers Below image***

***(Very Minor) Spoilers***

If you’ve read these books you’ll know there have been three characters that have left over the years that had nothing to do with dying, although one did eventually die if I remember right, but the two that always sits in my mind when I’m reading these books are Brin Milo and a scout called Mkvenner (I can’t for the life of me remember his first name). Both these characters went off for different reasons. For Milo, he went with Saint Sabbat, and I’ve heard rumours that Abnett has always intended Milo and the Ghosts to get back to each other at some point. With The Warmaster, the Saint is on the same planet as Gaunt and his Ghosts. When I found this out I was waiting for them to come together, but it didn’t happen. I really hope Abnett does so in the next book, because aside from the return of Mkvenner, that is one of the moments in this series of novels that I am eagerly waiting for.

I think Dan Abnett is setting up to bring this series to a close, to a point where the Sabbat Worlds Crusade is either won or lost.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day. On The Big Screen

My favourite movie of all time is Terminator 2: Judgement Day. I saw it when it came out on home video and I was just at the right age for it to have a lasting effect on me. It blew me away. Everything from the story, to the acting, to the special effects. Everything about this movie I love. It is my Star Wars.

So when I saw it was going to be in the cinema’s again for one night only I was there. Seriously, the zombie apocalypse could have been erupting and I would still have been there.

Now, I’m not a huge fan of 3D but that wasn’t going to stop me either.

*****Spoiler warning*****

Was it good? YES! It was awesome! Seeing Schwarzenegger, Hamilton, Patrick, Furlong all on the big screen was fantastic. Everything that I love about this film, the T-800 against the LAPD place department at the Cyberdyne building, Sarah Connor’s nuclear  apocalypse dreams, the chase through the Los Angeles River. The T-800 with the Winchester shotgun and how he’s cocking it during that chase. Damn, there are so many scenes that seeing for the first time as a teen opened my mind up. The helicopter going under the overpass, the T-800 being lowered into the steel at the end of the film. Pretty much any scene where the T-1000 is killing someone, or rising out of the floor or walking  through iron bars.

The whole concept of time travelling cyborgs was fuel for my imagination as well.

With the sound system the cinema has that industrial beat the soundtrack has was brilliant. A few times it felt like it was vibrating through my bones.

I struggle to put into words just how much this movie means to me, so being able to see it on the big screen was very special and I’m so glad I did. It’s great watching it at home, but it is a film that is at its best on the big screen.