Sunday, 25 May 2014

Godzilla the movie

I am of an age where I remember the last Godzilla movie coming out, the Roland Emmerich one. I never actually saw it at the time but I can remember thinking that Godzilla was a big thing. Also I think I watched the tv series but all I can really remember of that is some vague recollection of a bunch of kids standing on Godzilla’s head. Anyway, when I heard that there was going to be a new one I knew I had to see it. So I grabbed my God-brother and we headed to the cinema.
The new movie is…interesting. The first twenty minutes is really well done and plays with the audiences expectations somewhat. We get the kind of typical family gets ruined by appearance of monster, forcing father to go crazy and vow revenge. It’s initially set in Japan, which is pretty necessary in any giant monster movie. After that the threat moves to America where a lot of real estate gets ruined.
I’m actually finding it quite hard to describe this movie without leaving spoilers. There’s something unexpected that happens fairly on and I don’t want to ruin it. So I’ll speak only in generics and try and leave out specific details.
The main problem with this movie is that it focuses on the humans more than Godzilla. I’m ok with the reveal of Godzilla being slow and it taking a while for us to get a good look at him. The pay off for that was that we got to see a cool Godzilla halfway through the movie and a nice show of his tail and scales up until then. But then we kind of leave him again. They get geared up for a big confrontation and just as it’s getting started we cut to a tv showing a news report about it. The whole movie we follow this soldier who seems to be really unlucky in how often he encounters giant monsters. But he’ll be doing his thing and then we’ll see Godzilla stomping around in the background. Honestly it seemed like the humans had one story and Godzilla had another. The two intersected at times but they didn’t seem as connected as you’d think.  And honestly I think the humans were only there to pad out the movie. They made very little difference in the overall outcome.
There was actually a lot of stuff in this move that didn’t seem to have a purpose. There was a large army, naval and air force presence that didn’t seem to do anything except die. There was a scientist who didn’t seem to do anything except stare sadly into the horizon and mutter about Godzilla being an apex predator. There was a love interest who didn’t seem to do anything except miss her husband’s calls. I think there might have been a message about nuclear being bad. There was a meltdown at a Japanese nuclear power station at the start which might have been a bit soon to be in good taste.  For some reason nukes were a source of food so we got to see a large number gulped down as if they were After Eights. Hiroshima was mentioned at one point and I’m not really sure why.  It was sort of mentioned and then the sad eyed scientist just walked off. It seemed really weird.

Overall though I really liked it and my God-brother loved it. It definitely took some influences from Pacific Rim, so if you like you giant monsters glowing this movie has you covered. Godzilla himself actually looked really great. I’d heard some people complaining before I saw it that they’d made Godzilla too fat but, while he definitely isn’t as sleek as other incarnations, he looks fine. The ending was satisfying, though I’m still not really sure why Godzilla was there in the first place. While writing this there’s been a bunch of things that have occurred to me and caused me to laugh out loud at the stupidity of them. This is not a move that makes a lot of sense and there’s a couple of moments that just make you go ‘huh?’ But if you’re just looking to see a great deal of devastation to American cities (the Golden Gate Bridge gets wrecked again) then you could do a lot worse. My random rating is six out of ten and you can find the trailer here.

From student to author

Turns out that life as both a student and an author is very busy. I might be doing a talk about it in a few months but let's just says that you have to go around the place, doing talks at schools and festivals and still hand in essays on time. I've been loving it of course but I think I'm only still in university by the skin of my teeth.
But that's all behind me now. I've submitted the last piece of coursework for this year and unless I fail something I'm free for the summer. And that means I can switch from being a reluctant student to a reluctant author (I don't like work, even when it's fun).
So what will I be doing with my new free time? Well I've got a few projects on the go, most of which can be found on the relevant page on my website. I also have one or two secret projects that I won't be revealing until I know they're doable, because I don't want to get hopes up and because I like being able to say I have secret projects. If they work it'll be very exciting though.
And I suppose it's  time to start the long standing tradition of starting to update this blog, do well for a short time and then lose steam. I'll try a couple of reviews a week and we'll see how it goes from there.
And on that note I watched Godzilla today so here's a review on that.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Attack of the Giant Robot Chickens by Alex McCall

Ok. So I'm not going to review my own book. I'm fairly self centred but that's something else. But who care? I'm published! I have a book out, I've held it bound in my hands and people have read it.

And now the real work begins.

The launch party was a success and it sounds like I've sold a reasonable number of books since but I can't let it stop at that. I need to keep working, keep promoting the book and just raise awareness.

So...Watch this space. I'm not going to promise anything because I'm already running late on a lot of my promises but just keep watching. It might be cool.

And on the note I have to tease you a bit more and get back to it. Until then thanks for reading and buy my book here.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Of all the classic geek genres out there Star Trek is one of those where my knowledge is very shaky. I’ve seen the newest movies and can barely remember watching Star Trek: Enterprise about ten years ago. That’s about it. But I’ve got a couple of friends who are really into Star Trek and I know general things about it, even if not many specifics.
So I know enough to get the general gist of the idea when I came across Redshirts by John Scalzi.
The idea is pretty inspired. When Andrew Dalh and friends arrive on the Universal Union’s flagship Intrepid they begin to notice something strange going on. Most noticeably all of the away missions with certain high-ranking officers involve one of the crew dying in some way. The officers themselves will always survive. Naturally this gets them all panicked as any away mission they go on is likely to end in their deaths.
A book based around what the redshirts in Star Trek experience is a good idea. But it could probably have been done better. The pacing in this novel seems slightly…off.
The main problem with it is that everyone else on the ship has already figured everything else out. They even have systems in place for dealing with it. So it becomes a case, not of our protagonists figuring stuff out on their own, but of them surviving long enough and getting angry enough to finally begin to ask questions. Then they’re basically told everything. By a quarter of the way in most of the symptoms of the problem are diagnosed and by halfway through they know everything. And then the story turns a bit meta.
You may be thinking that the pacing sounds good if they’re only realising what’s going on halfway through and then dealing with it. Usually you’d be right. But because the pacing is so fast it’s a relatively short novel. The main plot itself only lasts for 223 pages. And when everything’s been relieved 100 pages in that suggests poor pacing.
Admittedly I’ve been reading Brandon Sanderson books lately and they tend to be nicely long so it may just seem short to me. But 223 pages? That’s the same length as the first Harry Potter book (in the UK. In the US it’s 309). The book itself is 306 pages long. That’s because there were three coda’s tacked onto the end. And when you need three short stories to bring your novel up to length then it suggests that it is a bit short.
Ok, I’ve gone on for long enough about the pacing. This is mostly because there’s not a lot else I can really criticise about it. The writing itself is pretty good. The characters don’t get a lot of time to develop but they’re nicely rounded off and identifiable. The plot is a very strong until halfway through, gets very meta, changes setting and then seems to end it on a weird questioning note. But it’s still good. You won’t be seeing a sequel but that’s not necessary if your novel is strong enough on its own.
I suppose now is the time to talk about the codas. As previously mentioned there’s three of them, one set in the first person, one in the second and one in the third. Yeah….I don’t know what to say about that. It works? For those of you who don’t know what a coda is, which included me, I googled it and the definition is ‘the concluding passage of a piece or movement, typically forming an addition to the basic structure.’ And addition is right. These don’t add anything to the main plot. At all. They focus on three characters that are introduced after the scene change I mentioned earlier and who were barely around for long enough to get noticed. Characters which, I may add, had all their difficulties resolved in the main story. Ok, for the second one there might have been a few questions about what had happened to him but these were answered within the first two pages. It actually ended on more of a cliff-hanger than it began with. The three tenses thing seems a little gimmicky but each story works on its own so there’s not really much to say about it.

That’s about it really. It’s not a bad book but it’s not brilliant. I expect most people will buy it for the concept, which is pretty great, and then get bored with the rest. A shame but there you go. Apart from the pacing there’s not much wrong with it but you don’t really get that much as it stands. All in all I rate it a five out of ten and include the Amazon link here.

Happy New Year

I'd love to say that I've been super busy in the last month and a bit, that something vital was keeping me from posting, but honestly there wasn't. I did have a coursework and an exam to get done but that was a few weeks ago and nothing has happened since that would keep my from posting something. However that does mean that I've got a news that I can share now.

The main news is that my book, Attack of the Giant Robot Chickens, has had it's release date moved forward. Originally it was coming out on the 20th of March but now it's coming out on the 20th of February. Which is significantly closer. Suddenly it's almost here and very very real. And scary. This is something I've been working towards for a long time and now that it's nearly here I'm not quite sure how to feel.

There may be something else that I'm forgetting but I don't think so. My university term is starting again so I'm sort of looking forward to that. And I guess I'm going to start putting up reviews again. I've read a good few books over the holidays and I'll be putting up what I think about them over the next few week. Unless I forget. Again.

So to start us off here's a review of Redshirts by John Scalzi.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Catching Fire the movie

Ok this review is going to be slightly different from the others. I don’t usually review movies because I spend more time reading and actually getting to the cinema is something that I don’t do often. But in this case I’ve actually seen Catching Fire twice.
It’s not because it’s a good movie, though it is. And it’s not because I fell asleep for five minutes the first time I watched it (I’d had a busy few days). I just had two different groups of friends who wanted to see it and I went with both. But this means that I’ve had a lot more time to analyse it than I usually would and this will naturally offset what I have to say. Just so we’re all clear and honest.
Catching Fire is the second in the Hunger Games trilogy. I’m going to say right now that I wasn’t too happy with the first movie. I mean, it wasn’t bad exactly. It was certainly watchable.  But there were things about it I just didn’t like. The camerawork for the opening fifteen minutes seemed a bit jolty to me. I don’t really want to make a point of that though because every time I’ve mentioned it to someone else they’ve looked at me like I’m an idiot and I’m not sure that the projector didn’t just have a little malfunction. I also felt that they took too long actually getting to the games. They were focusing on the build up for a long time. The games themselves were reasonably well done, though the dogs at the end were a bit of a let-down, especially considering how horrific they were in the books. Still this was a PG 13 movie so there was a limit to what they could show. But my main problem with it was how they dealt with Peeta’s character. They made him seem a bit…weak? In the book he was a really strong character who found himself stuck in a tournament to the death with a girl he had a huge crush on and decided to focus on getting her through it. However I always felt that his feelings for Katniss didn’t define him, that he would have acted in a similar manner for someone else in the games. He was very sure about doing it his way and not letting the Capitol change him. But in the books he seem half shell shocked and half obsessively in love. At one point he apologised for not actually handing Katniss the bread instead of just dropping it at her feet. The other line of his that they missed out, the major one in my opinion, was the point where he said, ‘I did like other girls. But not as much or for as long as you.’ It actually gave him depth.
So all in all I wasn’t too impressed with the first movie. But Catching Fire blows it all away.
Seriously, where to start? It just seems an all-round better movie and a masterful adaptation of a book. Once again it takes half the movie to get to the actual Hunger Games part of it and when I first watched it I was very aware of how long it had taken. But they didn’t actually cut anything that happened in the arena. In fact, looking back, they had to cut a lot from the pre-tournament bit that would have been nice to see. And in the book it took that long to get there as well.
Peeta is a much stronger character in this movie. In fact they’ve pared back on the romance a fair bit, something I’m thankful for. They haven’t removed it completely and Gale’s character seems there to do nothing but angst but Peeta actually seemed like his own person, not some pathetic ball and chain for Katniss.
Finally let’s talk about the love shown to the actual readers of the book. Obviously they couldn’t include everything. There was never any possibility of that. But there are so many nice touches that hint at what’s there without actually showing it. The whole Avox subplot is dropped but they still include one waiting on everyone and standing silently in the background. President Snow’s Granddaughter also features in this movie, which didn’t happen in the books. I’m personally glad they made that change though. When she gets mentioned in Mockingjay it’s quite sudden and we got no hint of her existence previously. If they do that part of the movie in the same way as in the book then it’s going to have a much better impact.
Nothing is perfect though and there are a few things that I’ve got issue with. As previously mentioned Gale has been reduced as a character to someone much less likeable, who does nothing but complain and act angsty. Then there’s the ending. It worked and it was just like in the book but it was still pretty abrupt. And it didn’t have the same impact as in the book because the destination they end up in (I’m keeping it vague to stop spoilers) is just barely mentioned. In the books there was this huge subplot about it and we got the possibility presented to us firmly. But in the movie it’s mentioned once before they arrive and in a speech where you’re paying much more attention to the rest of what’s being said than the specifics. Then, when it is revealed, it’s again in a dialogue where there are slightly more important things being discussed. It might have been nice to get some surprise or for the location to have been mentioned a bit more previously but I’m not sure they could have properly done it without taking something else out.

But seriously, go see this movie. It’s just so good. Everything is done well, the camera work is seamless and you’ll have a whole lot of fun watching it. My meaningless rating is a very solid eight out of ten and here’s the link to the trailer.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The quiet month

It's probably about time I did a small blog post, just to catch everyone up to where I am now and what's going to be happened. I should really be doing these more often but being a writer means that things don't happen very fast. The next time you pick up a book and skip through those 300 odd pages it's probably worth considering that it took about a year to write that book, get it fully edited and then presented to you. Which doesn't present you with a lot to talk about until after it's done.

So I managed to finish NaNoWriMo on time. Just. Most of the words were done in the last four days. Hopefully next year I'll be slightly more organised over it but I doubt it. Still there's 50,000 words done that can be edited down into something more usable. And then stuck in a cupboard for years until I remember about it and use it. That's not really important though. I do NaNoWriMo just to keep me sharp and to increase my typing speed in case of emergencies. I was over 3k an hour at some points this year. That was pretty cool.

Things with Attack of the Giant Robot Chickens is pretty much wrapped up. I've got to proof-read the manuscript two more times and then that's it. I'll be completely done. It's...interesting. Part of me still can't really accept that I'm going to be published. I think it'll only be when I hold the finished book in my hands that I'll really believe it. But I'm now on both Amazon and the Waterstones website for pre-ordering. And that is so cool I can't properly describe it.

There's not really going to be much happening on this blog for the next month. This is usual for December. I'm usually pretty tired after NaNoWriMo or I'll be more focused on editing what I have. This year I've got a lot of coursework that has to be finished and handed in. And I can't buy and new book in case I get them for Christmas. So basically don't expect much up on here for the rest of the year. Any books I do review will be older ones that I've read a few time. I will have a new one (for me) up just before Christmas but apart from that I'm not promising anything.

Anyway, I'd best get back to work. Busy, busy, busy.