Tales from the Inner City – Shaun Tan

Tales from the Inner City is a powerful reflection on the nature of existence and the urban relationship we have with the animals within our human world.  From the dog to the crocodile; from the tiger to the frog, world renowned artist Shaun Tan explores the perennial love and destruction we feel and inflict on our fellow creatures.

Shaun Tan always creates enjoyable and thought-provoking work, and in Tales from the Inner City he explores nature, our co-existence – or not – with animals and how our way of life effects the natural environment around us.

This heavy, lavish hardback tome of 225 glossy pages, is full of atmospheric illustrations, each set over two pages which accompany the numerous short stories, and sharply contrast the differences in two opposing worlds and have an air of the dreamlike about them.

The stories themselves are a mixed bag in terms of their messages, some are obvious, but due to the trademark whimsy and surreal of Tan’s style, others fail as the point being made is sometimes too veiled.  Despite this, I find all them enjoyable and full of depth. Continue reading “Tales from the Inner City – Shaun Tan”

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The Secret: A Treasure Hunt – Byron Preiss

One morning, whilst waiting for my strong cup of coffee to kick in, and the laptop to boot up the latest manuscript that needs going over , I stuck on the Travel Channel in the hope of finding some adventure.  Or more importantly to avoid all the terrible reality TV that ruins the medium.

Josh Gates was on doing his Expedition Unknown, and at first my heart sank when his quest involved  a book called The Secret,  thankfully it wasn’t referring to that terrible specimen that came out some years ago.

What Josh was referring to was a book that leads to real buried treasure,  and instead of  a classic  ‘X’ marks the spot treasure maps, there are twelve fantasy images  with clues of real world landmarks cryptically embedded within. Accompanying each illustration is poetry with additional clues to entice the reader into this deceptive maze.

Published in 1982, creator Byron Preiss tapped into the The 80’s love of fantasy but he layered it with the theme of immigration, from the Old World to the New.  The fantastical creatures of Europe came over, and morphed into something else, along with those that told the tales.  It is also an encouragement to get out and travel, to appreciate nature, and enjoy a bit of lateral thinking at the same time. Continue reading “The Secret: A Treasure Hunt – Byron Preiss”

Reading Embers

In case you missed it live, (as we did) here’s Jess’ video.   Ten minutes before kick off we lost electricity, and with the water being off as well, it was a torrid thanks to the ridiculously hot time.  Crissy has the foresight to download a film off Netflix and have her phone charged which went some of the way to helping, before a nap until the electric coming on woke us up.

If you fancy hearing Jess in the flesh and seeing what her work is all about then click below, follow on Facebook, and all that other stuff.

Viridian Gate Online: Live!

After a very long day in Manila which involved: queueing, a lack of manners, coffee, and heat that felt closer to the mid 40’s than the 35 degree reality, I came home to a message from author J.D. Astra.

On the 11th April at 08:30pm MST, Jess will be reading chapter one of book two of her Firebrand series.  You can tune into it here, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/theastralscribe/ and then go buy the book right there and then, together with book one, reviews coming soon.

All this is a bit confusing as it will be live on the 12th in this part of the world but after struggling with the maths I still have time to do a post and let you all know before it happens.  If you fancy a trip into the world of Viridian Gate Online, or just want to sample the writing of J.D. Astra then this is the way to go about it.

I feel guilty for having accumulated many books that I need to review for people, and so need to get a move on but after cravenly contriving to forget that for this evening, I’m off to seek some much-needed sleep.

Viridian Gate Online: Side Quests James A. Hunter, J.D. Astra, et al

An extinction-level asteroid is cannonballing toward Earth. In humanity’s final hours, a lucky few earn a one-way ticket to the brand-new, ultra-immersive, fantasy-based VRMMORPG, Viridian Gate Online. Making that leap of faith might mean survival, but it comes with a steep price tag: “Travelers” will forever be stranded as digital avatars inside a fantastical world filled with vicious monsters, all-powerful AIs, and cutthroat players. Let the games begin …

This being my first introduction to this particular world, I had no idea what the bigger picture was going in (except for a beta read I did for Viridian Gate Online: Firebrand, review coming soon), but I got into the book extremely quickly and it offered enough tantalising glimmers to keep me intrigued, for this and further adventure in the universe.

Each story brings forth a mixture of pacy action, humour, and plenty of variety.  My favourites included, VGO creator James A. Hunter’s heist story in A Gentlemen’s Work, blog favourite Jess Harpley (AKA J.D. Astra) offers her trademark action set pieces in The Raiding of Rowanheath, and Nicholas Reid’s Buried Alive is an ancient Egypt fan’s delight.

As you would expect there are plenty of gaming and fantasy references but with a fun feel.  You don’t have to be particularly knowledgeable about either to enjoy the stories.  The mentioning of real world, and historical references show the cross over and remind the reader of the original premise whilst not taking them out of the VGO digital world. Continue reading “Viridian Gate Online: Side Quests James A. Hunter, J.D. Astra, et al”

The Eye of the World – Robert Jordan

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

Admittedly, it’s not much of a synopsis for the book but what it does do is set the scene of long ages past, an established world, and a cyclical recurring of Shadow.  The beginning of the story does have a similarity to Tolkien’s, The Lord of the Rings, to give you some idea of the direction of the book, but soon opens out into something pleasingly different, once it gets going.

I savoured the beginning much more this second time around, knowing all that would happen in the next 13 instalments, it was good to appreciate the build up.  Straight from the off there are plenty of details fleshing out the land and its peoples, and a compelling legend of the local area.  The world building was one of the main reasons I came back to this series.

The burgeoning foundations are very solid, and also puts many important pieces in play for later books, something the reader won’t appreciate without the hindsight of latter entries, and a reread.  There is plenty of peril coming from all angles which keeps the story moving, and the atmosphere is heavy on the hunted feel, where anyone or anything could be masking  its own hidden purposes. Continue reading “The Eye of the World – Robert Jordan”

Viridian Gate Online

An extinction-level asteroid is cannonballing toward Earth. In humanity’s final hours, a lucky few earn a one-way ticket to the brand-new, ultra-immersive, fantasy-based VRMMORPG, Viridian Gate Online. Making that leap of faith might mean survival, but it comes with a steep price tag: “Travelers” will forever be stranded as digital avatars inside a fantastical world filled with vicious monsters, all-powerful AIs, and cutthroat players. Let the games begin…

Recently I have been dipping my toes in something a bit different from my usual literary tastes.  As someone with little enough time for gaming, it is perhaps best that I live that life vicariously through the means of a humble book.

Having got my hands on two of the nine books in the Viridian Gate Online series, so far,  I am looking forward to immersing myself in this virtual world, whilst sagely nodding along to references that I may or may not quite get.

As the ever long, and still growing list of books continues to weigh heavy on my time, and my shelves, never let it be said that I don’t keep stretching my boundaries, in new and interesting directions.

Thanks to James. A. Hunter, and J. D. Harpley for securing me these copies, reviews will be coming just as soon.