Archive for X-Men

FORTRESS FRONTIER By Myke Cole – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2013 by stanleyriiks

A bit of context for those who haven’t read the first book yet: this is like the X-Men, but with magic instead of mutations. When people develop magical abilities, or come up “latent”, things develop swiftly, and they have to report to the Police, otherwise they will be arrested as “Selfers”. There are some prohibited types of magic too dangerous to be allowed in society, the government use these “probes” as part of a secret service in an alternative dimension called the Source, to fight the indigenous population of goblin-like creatures. This is where Oscar Britton is sent, for training and indoctrination, when he develops “probe” magic and accidentally kills his father. But things don’t work out quite as planned for Britton and the Shadow Coven…

The first book in the Shadow Ops series left the remaining renegade sorcerers of Shadow Coven surrounded by goblins after FOB (Forward Operating Base) Frontier was partially destroyed, the witch Scylla was freed, and a massive battle had taken place. If you’re expecting this book to pick up straight after that then you’ll be disappointed. For the most part this is the story of Colonel Alan Bookbinder, Pentagon administrator, who turns up latent, but his magical abilities fail to fully develop. Despite this, he is sent to Frontier, where he becomes the second in command. The timelines of this and the first book overlap, as Bookbinder arrives before Britton and the rest of Shadow Coven go rogue. But when that does happen we see the other side of the action, as the base is left devastated and with no contact or supplies from the home plane (Earth). With rapidly depleted stocks of ammo and food the base becomes desperate and the goblin attacks increase daily. Bookbinder and a small team head out into the wilderness to try to find an Indian base hundreds of kilometres away, their lives on the line, and they are the only hope of survival for those left in the partially destroyed base.

Britton and Shadow Coven do play a part in the story, we get an update about half-way through and then Britton and his team are involved towards the end of the book, tying everything nicely together and preparing the reader for the third book in the series.

This is an SF military action thriller with magic thrown in for good measure. Although it doesn’t have the new and shiny feel of the first book, and the lack of my favourite character Marty (A Dobby-like good goblin), mean this feels a little like the second book in the series (the necessary part between the beginning and the climax [is this a trilogy?], continuing the story and an integral part, but not really adding a great deal.

Those who enjoyed the first book, and that should be plenty, because it’s pretty bloody good, should come to this with an open-mind and they’ll enjoy this slightly different but linked second part. Those expecting the continued story of Britton and Shadow Coven may be a little disappointed by the new direction.

Good fun, but not as good as the first book. I still want to know what happens next, and expect at some point a full-scale war between the sorcerers and the military, and possibly civil war!


Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2012 by stanleyriiks

This blog is written in response to Simon Marshall-Jones column in the latest issue of the FREE Morpheus Tales Supplement:


Too many remakes he says, and I can’t whole-heartedly disagree. In fact, in the main I agreed completely. Hollywood (and they are not alone in this) seem driven to re-hash, remake and ruin all of my favourite films. I would suggest, however, that the “magic” Simon talked about in his ramblings is actually a much more personal matter than the gods-aligning. The “magic” happens when you grow up with a film, when it becomes a part of your life, of your history and background, and it speaks to you at a time, on a level, that nothing else does.

In my mid-teens I watched a film called Total Recall, with that unappreciated thespian Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnie was never a great actor, but I’d grown up watching his films, and this action-romp was (apart from Star Wars) one of my first introductions to SF (despite being a die-hard fantasy and horror only fan, apart from Star Wars!). I loved the over-the-top action, that Arnie’s wife was so hot (Sharon Stone before Basic Instinct), the incredible effects, there was even an alien with three boobs (this was my mid-teens remember)! The film spoke to me, it was great. But now, Sony in their infinite wisdom, have decided to remake it. Why? Because Total Recall (1990) is now over twenty years old, and apart from the money (I’m sure that’s the main reason), they want their film to speak to a new generation.

I have been quite prepared in the past to watch remakes, and give them a go as I would any other films. Unfortunately my past experience hasn’t always been pleasant, remakes of Halloween (rubbish, an extra forty minutes of pants and then a remake tacked on to the end), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (not too bad, not that I can remember any of it), King Kong (not terrible), A Nightmare on Elm Street I am just too scared to watch in case it’s crap. But sequels are the same, and yet lack the stigma of being another version of the original. I happily sat and watched the X-Men movies, Spiderman trilogy, all the Halloween films, A Nightmare on Elm Street (up to number 6), and even saw the Star Wars prequels at the cinema (rubbish, not bad, and ok, respectively [come on Disney, time to do something great with this franchise!]). Yet we don’t have the same disdain for sequels, which are (or can be) equally derivative. Like all films, or books, the first one is usually the best and the rest that follow (be they remakes or sequels) mere imitations.

So what about the book of the film, or, more likely, the film of the book? I like the first one best. Whether it’s the book or the film, the first time I discover the story is almost always my favourite. With Harry Potter it’s the books, although the films were also pretty damn good. The James Bond books are so very different from the films it’s difficult to make a direct comparison, the same with Holmes’ adventures. Guy Richie’s new Sherlock films, although I grew up with much older versions, are great fun. Stephen King’s adapted films, except perhaps for the excellent Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me, are far better in written form. No, despite Stand By Me being one of my favourites of all time, the original story (“The Body”) is even better.

In my early years (before the age of ten, although I couldn’t narrow it down any more than that), I watched Conan The Barbarian. Classic Arnie action flick. Not the greatest film ever made, in fact, on re-watching it’s fairly tired and out-dated, but it’s still Arnie and it’s still Conan, and it’s still the original and it’s still the best. I’ve read the book too, and you’ve gotta love a Conan book. I watched the remake last year, and was pleasantly surprised. Plenty of action, well-muscled barbarian, buxom wenches, and swordplay. This is not a bad remake except for one small thing they seemed to have forgotten. Conan has blue eyes. How the hell can you make a mistake like that! It’s like taking Judge Dredd’s helmet off! (Oh yeah, they did that too). Can’t wait for that remake of Dredd though, Sly Stallone is no Judge Dredd.

Remake, sequel, adaptation, whatever the hell they do, they need to make it authentic. That’s what remakes generally lack. And that is what gets our goat. That’s what reins all those remakes, and sequels and adaptations.

But remakes are not for us. They are not made for the people who enjoyed the first version, or the second or third. They are for the new people, these films are meant to speak to them and make them feel how we first felt when we watched them. Yes, of course there should be more originality, but you can say that about publishing and TV too. Sequels galore, derivative are us, is there anyone unafraid of originality? Who will take a risk and put their money where their mouth is? Independents, small presses… If they are lucky their original work will be remade with a big budget by a soulless corporation…

Inspiration! The Seeds of a Story…

Posted in Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2009 by stanleyriiks

Inspiration hit me in the face like a brick this weekend, repeatedly bludgeoning me into submission. It was a bank holiday in the UK, so a nice long weekend. Perfect, you would have thought, for doing some writing…

I’d just finished editing my review of Emma Westwood’s Pocket Essentials Monster Movies (coming soon to Morpheus Tales #5!), bloody good book btw, and was well into reading Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box, more of that later.

I’d done my shopping and preparation for the rest of the week, a handful of ham and mustard sandwiches for lunch at work, and I’d made sure I had enough food for breakfast, so the chores were out of the way.

On the train on my way home on Saturday from my nephew’s second birthday (the joy, a kid’s party! at least I got a goodie bag so not a completely wasted journey down to Kent) I went past this house with a huge Union Jack and massive shed at the bottom of the garden. [Inspiration 1.]

Perfect place for the Unibomber, I thought. [Inspiration 2.] While listening to Papa Roach’s Had Enough on my ipod, connotations of Columbine planting seeds in my brain. [Inspiration 3].

You can’t ignore a trilogy of ideas. Although I did try. Monday was virtually clear, so I could write all day, after letting my inspired ideas become more fully formed on Sunday. Except I swapped things around and decided to go to the cinema to see Wolverine: Origins. Similar to the other X-Men films I was left reasonably entertained but mildly disappointed, I’m more a Sandman or Preacher fan myself. Although his wife is bloody gorgeous! I think I’m in love!

So the cinema, then some more reading Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box. It is one of those really annoying books. One of those you pick up and don’t want to put down. One that for a writer is hideous, in that it doesn’t provide any inspiration or ideas that you can steal, instead it gives you the fear. The fear that you will never ever be able to write that well, that you will never be able to evoke emotion and tension and excitement like that. The same effect that Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Joe R. Lansdale and Stephen King all give me.  They make me want to give up because I can never be that good. Can I?

Having put off writing anything for long enough I decide to watch some porn and then have dinner. It’s now half way through the evening and it’ll be bedtime before I get any writing done. I’ve almost managed it, I’ve nearly procrastinated long enough!

Then I stop. I sigh with resignation and open up a blank word document, I take a sip of my cloudy lemonade, turn 30 Seconds to Mars up until my ears bleed and I start to type. Half a page in my word document dies on me. Some kind of fucking error. I almost give up right then and there. I open another document, listening to The Pretender by Foo Fighters. [Inspiration 4.] I have a title. I type, I save after every breath.

A hour later I have a 1000 word story called The Pretender: two school kids shoot up their school and then go back to the arms dealer who sold them the gun to get help. Only he’s not as helpful as they’d hoped….

Now all I gotta do is edit the bugger!