Fantasycon 2017 – Nearly There…

Fantasycon 2017 is so very nearly here and we hope you are looking forwards to it.

The programme is bursting with wonderful people talking about and discussing interesting topics…  the Guests of Honour are brilliant and we can’t wait to meet them all…  there are amazing dealers with fabulous books for you to get hold of… the Redcloaks are amazing and almost ready to greet you and ensure you have a lovely event.

If you have any last minute questions or want more information about what is going on please do first check out the information on our website, but if you cant find it there do drop us an email on admin@hwsevent.co.uk

If you are bringing books for launches or signing, you may also consider putting books for sale on the Fantasycon table. We would charge £10 plus 5% commission on any books sold.

We are not sending out electronic tickets, badges for attendees will be at the reception desk under the name of the person who made the booking. You packs will also include your name sign for use at your panels and signings, please bring this to your activities.

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The Mummy. Film Review

The Mummy directed by Alex Kurtzman, Universal Studios, 2017

Reviewed by Abbas Daya

When was the last time a mummy graced the big screen? No, not the type with wailing sprogs but the bandaged fiend variety moaning and staggering around pyramids? It’s been 9 years since we last saw a mummy on the big screen and then it was Jet Li in rusting bronze playing the titular villain in Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon emperor.

It’s only right then that we have a return of some mummy mayhem. Enter Tom Cruise’s The Mummy.

The plot needs no introduction – as ever, a bunch of adventurers stumble across an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus, trigger a curse and have to find a way to stop the wrapped up wrongdoer.

This time round the setting is modern day Iraq and Cruise is Sergeant Nick Morton, a military adventurer, who along with his sidekick, Corporal Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), and love interest, “Jenny” Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) are fighting, er, ISIS? The Taliban? Muslims? Heck – who knows, or cares? They’re dark, speak Arabic and are referred to as ‘the enemy’ – so it’s probably all of them. Anyhoo, while nukin’ the hun till they glow, our hapless trio discover the tomb of an Egyptian princess and sorceress, Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who lusts after power and immortality which in turn involves shenanigans with the god Set, a sacred dagger with a ruby hilt and crusader knights! The gang inadvertently resurrect her – oops! – and the ‘fun’ begins. Cue horror, Ahmanet reanimating, moans, groans, bones, zombies, stuff blowing up, mayhem and a bit of horror.

The verdict?

There’s no way this film can compare to Stephen Sommers’ Mummy (1999) and Mummy Returns (2001) films. They were a winning combination of excellent writing and casting and took the angle of adventure, fantasy and action horror comedies with a superb ensemble cast making them a fun romp with a capital F!

Fair play to Cruise, he does try. There is some humour in the film thanks to the chemistry between him and Johnson, who fans might recognise as Nick from New Girl opposite Zooey Deschanel, but it isn’t enough to breathe any kind of life into this celluloid corpse. The writing is weak, as is the action, and the performances from the cast are as lifeless as Ahmanet’s zombies with the only really chilling thing about the Mummy 2017 being Russell Crowe’s haircut! Credit has to be given for casting eye candy for the boys and girls – Cruise for the ladies and Messrs Boutella and Wallis for the blokes but after nearly two hours of the Mummy 2017, the only thing you’ll be thankful for is the end credits.

Do yourself a favour – don’t waste your dosh on this lame flick. Stream it.

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Luna: Wolf Moon. Book Review

LUNA: WOLF MOON by Ian McDonald
Gollancz, p/b, 400pp, £16.99
Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

Anyone with a reasonable grounding in science will know that the environment on the moon is harsh and unforgiving. Why, then, would anyone want to live there? The answer, according to Ian McDonald’s new series, is money. The moon has an untapped wealth of minerals and with the discovery of extensive deposits of water-ice it has been possible to not only mine, but set up colonies. These colonies belong to the mining corporations and they   not only control all the resources, including air and water, but are at war with each other.

At the end of Luna: New Moon, the Mackenzie family (originally Australian and specialising in rare metals) did their best to wipe out the Corta dynasty (originally Brazilian and Helium miners).  The few survivors are scattered. Lucas Corta has managed to get off the surface and is rescued by the Vorontsov’s (originally Russian and control the traffic between Earth and the Moon. Having satisfied himself that the remnants of his family are as safe as possible (most under the protection of the Asamoah family (originally from Nigeria and who grow most of the Moon’s food), Lucas decides on an almost possible plan. He will go to Earth and negotiate enough influence to take back what is his from the Mackenzies.

There is one huge stumbling block in the way of Lucas’s plans. Because of the lighter gravity, anyone going to the Moon from earth has a maximum of two years if they wish to return. After that, their bodies have adapted so much to the new conditions that re-entry into Earth’s gravity will probably kill them. Lucas is Moon-born. Thus he has to go through fourteen months of a punishing regime if he is even to have the slightest chance of surviving two months under the heavier gravity and higher air pressure.

In the meantime, old Robert Mackenzie, kept alive now only by electronic systems, is preparing for a party for his hundred and fifth birthday. It is to take place at Crucible. This is a smelting facility powered by the sun. Huge mirrors direct the light into the smelters. To provide maximum production, this is on rails and constantly circles the equator so that it is always on the dayside of the Moon. During the festivities something goes wrong. The mirrors change their angles and the heat is directed onto the carriages where the party-goers have congregated. The result – destruction and mayhem. The belief is that the Corta family left code embedded in the system a very long time ago and it has just been activated. The main result is that Robert’s surviving sons and suddenly at each other’s throats, each vying for control of the Mackenzie empire. Instead of diplomacy as the main method of keeping stability there is now out and out warfare without anyone being quite sure who the enemies and allies are.

Not only is Ian McDonald a brilliant writer, being able to convey the motives and machinations of the characters, he also paints a picture of what it would be like to live in circumstances where death is only the thickness away of the walls keeping the vacuum at bay. Everything in this novel is frighteningly plausible, from the dangers of the environment to the age-old nature of human greed. As in Luna: New Moon, the earlier volume, the central character is the Moon herself. Highly recommended.

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Spiderman: Homecoming. Film review

Spider-Man: Homecoming directed by Jon Watts, Marvel Studios, 2017

Reviewed by Abbas Daya

Marvel fans were given a tantalising taste of the new Spider-Man last year when he stood beside Tony Stark/Iron Man in the Avengers: Civil War showdown. With Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spidey takes centre stage.

The plot to Spider-Man: Homecoming is simple enough, alien weaponry and tech – fallout from the Avengers/Chitauri dust up in the 2012 film – is being meshed with earth weaponry to produce some nasty hardware that packs a BIG punch.

The gang responsible is headed by the ‘Vulture’ (Michael Keaton), so dubbed because he flies using jet powered wings, and a genius with all things tech,who isselling the deadly hardware to his fellow criminals – the dastardly swine!

Spider-Man (Tom Holland) has to bring the birdman to justice and stop the flow of the deadly weapons, BUT, that’s nothing compared to navigating the minefield that is high school while juggling his Spider-Man duties of looking out for ‘the little guy’ and proving to Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) that he’s got what it takes tojoin the Avengers.

The verdict?

The previous Spider-Man films with Messrs Maguire and Garfield were entertaining enough but suffered from oversentimentality – the loss of Pete’s Uncle Ben and the unrequited love shenanigans with Mary Jane (MJ) – not to mention the boring backstory.

Spider-Man: Homecoming opens with Peter Parker already having his powers so thankfully there’s no time wasted with how he got them. Fans will love the film for that and for harkening back to Spidey’s original high school roots. But what really makes Spider-Man: Homecoming a winner, is the characterisation.

Holland’s Spider-Man is Fun with a capital F, and hugely watchable as the shy 15-year-old science and tech geek who stumbles as awkwardly through his adventures as the webslinger as he does the trials of high school.

The slick writing, and acting on Holland’s part, only makes him more endearing especially the scenes of Spider-Man behaving like a typical teenager and the distance shots of our hero clinging to something while looking curiously around which would be typical of an adolescent coming to terms with amazing powers.

Thanks to Holland, Peter Parker is utterly lovable as are his high school mates and supporting cast – Jacob Batalon is an equally lovable Ned, Pete’s best mate, and Laura Harrier who plays Liz, Pete’s love interest and head of the school’s debating team. Zendaya plays a quirky and off-the-wall Michelle ‘MJ’ Jones. It’s also refreshing to see the film cast black actors in the young female leads.

Marisa Tomei is Peter’s gorgeous aunt, May Parker, while Michael Keaton is dazzling as the pants wettingly menacing Adrian Toomes aka the Vulture.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is also huge on humour and has all the thrills and spills you’dexpect from a Spider-Man film – Spidey’s death-defying acrobatic webslinging between skyscrapers and all the requisite CGI of a Marvel fantasy flick of things crashing, smashing and exploding.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is the best of the Spider-Man films to date. It has ageless appeal and all the action and special effects you’d expect of a Spider-Man film without all the unnecessary backstory and sentimentality. It has characters you’ll love and cheer for and still fondly remember long after the end credits have rolled.

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Fantasycon 2017 – Guest of Honour Pat Cadigan

Fantasycon 2017 is delighted to announce Guest of Honour:

Pat Cadigan

Award winning writer, Pat Cadigan has been creating thought provoking science fiction and fantasy for the last four decades. Her short story Angel, was a finalist for the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award and the World Fantasy Award. It won the Locus Awarrd in 1988. Her collection Patterns also won a Locus in 1990.

A founder member of what we’ve come to know of as the cyberpunk movement, Pat’s novel, Synners won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1992 and she repeated the triumph with Fools in 1995. She was the first writer to win the award twice.
Pat’s short fiction has appeared in several of the world’s best Science Fiction and Fantasy magazines, including Asimov’s.

In 2013, she won the Hugo Award and the Locus Award for her short story, The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi. This also won the Seiun Award in 2015.

More information can be found on the Fantasycon 2017 Website

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The Seventh Colour by Will Davidson. Book review

The Seventh Colour by Will Davidson, Upavon Press, 2017, £7.99

Reviewed by Nigel Robert Wilson

Self-publishing by authors is now more common than generally accepted. Sure, the big publishers have more clout in the market-place, but the degree of promotional support these can demand from their authors militates towards the self-publisher putting his or her own shoulder to that tyrannical wheel. At least by self-publishing the individual author can be their own boss, to stand or to fall on their own strengths and weaknesses. It can also be fun, or so I am told.

Will Davidson writes with a controlled, descriptive style that draws the reader into the narrative through its very economy. Hence explanations become intense statements of the strange world he sets before us sucking the reader into the plot, as it were. Coupled to very strong descriptions of each individual character in the story, the reader soon becomes a co-conspirator in the direction and dissemination of this tale.

Outwardly this looks like yet another rather prosaic tale about a world peopled by dragons, elves and humans, but it isn’t. Don’t be fooled by the descriptive blurb on the cover. This is all about a human world in which the dragons are all dead and the elves long departed by boat into the West, destination unknown. Now some two thousand years on, this is a former magical world that has not only lost the magic but it has also acquired its own collection of dreadful stresses. Consequently, humanity is left stewing in its own dark ignorance, outwardly conspiring to emulate the elves in all things, but finding the complexities far too overwhelming.

The Tower that oversees central government is obsessed with style and form in which everyone must know their place. The population is concentrated in heavily defended urban precincts surrounded by fortified farms and controlled by a formal bureaucracy which is content to ensure its continuity through the deployment of informers and torture. Due to population stress, there is a one-child policy which is rigidly and often violently imposed. Grinding poverty is widespread as a low-intensity civil war is played out in the wider countryside, complicated by bands of orks who hunt humans for food. There is also The Fest, a period of institutional social upheaval used to control any public expression for change.

Tomas Cullan, an investigator for the Council at an urban centre named Rivertop, is given a task by his superior, the Arch-Investigator Victor Appelsin to look for and bring to justice a group of alleged conspirators against the good order of fashion and style before they all vanished from sight and society. Tomas learns that these people are responsible for the death of Victor’s wife and his disabling injuries. As the story develops the reader is privileged to travel through this weird world inside Tomas’ own narrative. In due course Tomas finds himself in the company of these intellectual and social outsiders who have concluded that the absence of elven magic has caused humanity to fail to develop. New ideas and innovations are treated with fear and suspicion whilst the triviality of fashion is followed to the point of ridicule.

This dissident group has even discovered that the corpus of historical references to the elves are based on limited evidence written by the elves themselves before their Departure. Historical information about the elves and their behaviour written by humans under elven rule have either been ignored or suppressed. It was highly probable that the dominant human perception that elven dominion was based on a mutual regard might be wrong. Were the elves an alien government in the manner of colonial rulers?  Having adopted a different historical narrative this dissident group needed to be suppressed. Thus, a different understanding of the human condition was denied, ensuring that violence would follow.

In many ways, this is a new restatement of the old, old story of political repression by a political class unable to envisage change as it admires its own reflection in the mirror whilst ignoring the obvious deficiencies and deformities. Dissidence cannot be tolerated by a smug, self-satisfied ruling group. The resonances with our own times are plain, whatever your political loyalties. Oppression is not the way to behave.

This is good writing, intelligent, amusing yet challenging on what is a very relevant subject. It is also an excellent tale which describes, excites and pulls the reader all the way through to the final denouement. It would be quite inappropriate for this reviewer to say what this is, but the book title is what it is all about.

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Vice Womb Age by M. Colin Alston. Book review

Vice Womb Age by M. Colin Alston, Green Ivy Press 2016, p/b £22, Kindle £10.79

Reviewed by Shona Kinsella

Vice Womb Age is the first in a proposed four book saga entitled Reliving Earth by M Colin Alston.

Before merging into a single story around half-way through the book, there are two subplots.  A powerful, no nonsense warrior and representative of an all female religious movement (The Vice Womb Age) is responsible for the safe return of young pilgrims travelling through woods occupied by cannibalistic humans infected with a DNA mutating virus. While this goes on, a biotechnologically enhanced young man – nothing more than a concubine to the cult leader of the religion –  struggles with a desire for revenge after a personal tragedy years earlier (which is explored later in the book through flashbacks).

The religion in question has a detailed and structured hierarchy, where the women are ranked based on their standings within the movement, as well as the level of “seduct sutras”, chemical enhancements whose “sole purpose of coercion; attaining control and domination through hypersexual arousal and manipulation”. The women are promoted through the ranks by chemically seducing men who become very unfortunate victims of sacrifice.

The cult revolves heavily around symbolism of female power, with genitalia being the main symbol.

Alston displays a very detailed imagination in his world. It is clear that Alston is very passionate about the saga he has created and has put a lot of thought into the religion. Whilst I enjoy figuring out the elements of an author’s world building on my own, the hierarchy is admittedly overwhelming at first, as there is no clear explanation of the rankings throughout the book. At the end, Alston informs readers that there is a glossary on the book series’ website explaining all the alien terms throughout. I found this helpful in better understanding the book retrospectively, but perhaps this glossary would be more suited at the start of the book as a reference for readers.

I struggled with the character development in this book. The protagonists are not very sympathetic with questionable moral traits and treatment of others. A protagonist doesn’t always have to be likeable but in cases where they are not, the reader generally expects them to become a better person over the course of the story or suffer for their faults. This does not happen during the course of Vice Womb Age – although it is only the first of four books so this arc may take longer to play out.

One of the things that stands out, for better or worse, is the graphic description of sex and violence throughout. Any fans of the splatterpunk genre – most notably Richard Laymon – will not mind reading the explicit language in the killing sprees and sexual encounters. However, at times the language used could be considered too crass for some readers so this book comes with a strong content warning. Ultimately, these scenes reduced my enjoyment of the book.

Alston has the foundations of a well-structured world which could flourish given time and space enough but the subject matter is not to my taste so I ma unlikely to read more in this series.

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Tales from the Vatican Vaults. Book Review

TALES FROM THE VATICAN VAULTS
Edited by David V. Barrett
Robinson Publishing, p/b, 576pp, £9.99
Reviewed by Matthew Johns

Tales from the Vatican Vaults is a combination of Warehouse 13, the X-Files and the Librarians, but in a historical setting.

The basic premise is that Pope John Paul I didn’t die a month after the start of his papacy in 1978, but instead led the Catholic Church for more than 30 years, reforming it almost beyond recognition, and releasing the contents of some of the most secret archives of the Vatican Library. These archives contain tales of the lives of saints and popes, of miracles, magic and aliens throughout the history that we thought we knew.

These stories begin in 850AD with “The Tale of Pope Joan”, which tells of a race of shapeshifters, one of whom becomes pope. Another tale details how a fallen angel was an advisor to Pope Theophylact, while another tells of time travelling historians from the distant future paying a visit to the 11th century.

The authors of the myriad tales contained within this volume conjure up worlds that seem familiar, but have unexpected twists that transform them out of our understanding. A superb collection of stories that challenge the history that we thought we knew, adding in unexpected elements of the fantastic.

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Assassin Queen. Book Review

ASSASSIN QUEEN by Anna Kashina
Angry Robot. p/b. 528pp. £8.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins

Kara is free. No longer Majat. No longer tied to Prince Kythar in anything other than loyalty to what is right and in friendship. Feelings have been much clarified, if not resolved between herself and the prince, nor between herself and Aghat Mai.

The Kaddim and perhaps others close to the Majat are still a threat, and Mai’s new standing as the Majat Guild Master has placed even more burden on his young shoulders. His personal feelings for Kara and Kyth may have to come second, if only slightly so, to his duties and obligation. But Kara’s greatest strength may become her greatest weakness when she becomes the Kaddim’s target once again. Will it be Mai, or Kyth, or indeed either of them who can save her this time?

Assassin Queen is the third instalment in the Majat Code series and Kara very much takes back centre stage in this volume, with events centred on her struggle with the Majat’s Kaddim enemies. Kashina once again delivers a highly enjoyable story, if a little sentimental in this volume with much of the focus placed on the developing relationships among the key characters.

After such a protracted and often intense lead up to the events in this book, its ending feels somewhat too soon in the coming. Each hurdle looms and is overcome and Kara is propelled onto the next with no time for she or the reader to fully come to terms with the latest consequences and there is, therefore, not enough time for the reader to fully digest or empathise with her situation.

That said, it is easy to understand why The Majat Code saga has received such praise and has won an award. The story is satisfying, the characters very easy to like and there is enough excitement and incentive to keep the pages turning.

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