Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Book Review | Stone Spring by Stephen Baxter

Review by Stuart Mayne

Hot on the heels of his near future world flood duology (Flood and Ark), Baxter is back on the flood theme with Stone Spring, a Mesolithic speculative fiction novel about what would happen if the North Sea hadn't flooded entirely.
As usual with all of Baxter's novels this is a well researched and lively written narrative of high excitement with the ability to delight and move the reader.
Ana is fourteen. Her father is missing, her mother dead. Ana lives on the coast of Doggerland, a vast and fertile plain that linked Britain to mainland Europe during the Mesolithic era. But the world is changing. The ice age is coming to an end and the glaciers are retreating and the seas rising. One fateful year a tsunami sweeps inland and scatters Ana's people. But if the people of distant Jericho could build a wall to keep the world out surely Ana's people could build a wall to keep the sea out?
As much as this is a book of environmental disaster and man's ingenuity to overcome natural disaster it is also, in Baxter's best skill, a story of family and the jealousies that lead man to do bad things to the one's we love the best.

This review first appeared in the Aurealis Magazine subscriber newsletter.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Quillblade by Ben Chandler

Review by Carissa Thorp

Looking for something exciting and complex for your teen to read? Something you might also enjoy yourself? Quillblade is just the thing. 
Our heroes, the slave twins Lenis and Missy Clemens, are Keepers of a small group of Bestia aboard the Hiryū, an airship gifted to the Warlord of Shinzō by the Puritans. The Bestia are creatures that have “affinities” for elements, enabling them to power the world’s technologies, including airships. Lenis and Missy, themselves having affinities with the beasts, are essential to running the airship. Compelled to stay with the ship when it’s stolen the day after it arrives in Shinzō, they are pulled into a dangerous and mystical adventure they don’t understand.
Imaginatively inspired by Anime, Japanese culture, and world myth and history, the story tumbles head-long into a mysterious and thrilling plot set in a world that is obviously wide and deep, full of endless possibilities for more story. This is a good thing as there’s apparently six novels in the series. I finished Quillblade surprised that so much had happened in such a relatively slender novel; epic in a regular sized package. Full of great ideas that are familiar but never cliche, Quillblade is a top read.

This review first appeared in the Aurealis Magazine subscriber newsletter.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Book Review | Elves – Once Walked With Gods by James Barclay

Review by Karen Simpson Nikakis

It is extremely difficult to think of elves without thinking of Peter Jackson’s rendition of Tolkienesque elves as being tall, slender and blonde. From the lithe athleticism of Legolas to the serene beauty of Galadriel and the wisdom of Elrond, Tolkienesque elves might fight with the required ferocity, but their motivations are lofty, and their more desired pursuits that of poetry and music. The contrast with Barclay’s murderous, treacherous and ethnically or ‘thread’ divided elves couldn’t be more startling. Gone too is the cool arboreal gloom usually favoured as elvish habitation, replaced with tropical, parasite infested jungles. The hero Takaar is in self-imposed exile and in his absence, the various ‘threads’ turn on each other. Aided by human mercenaries, no act is too despicable, no murder too bloody. And like the elves, it took me a considerable way into the narrative before I could work out whose side I should be on. This is the first book in a trilogy, but its darkness and reliance on the events in the back story, make me think it would be far better suited as Book Two.

This review first appeared in the Aurealis Magazine subscriber newsletter.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Book Review | Tymon’s Flight by Mary Victoria

Review by Crisetta MacLeod

I caught up with Voyager’s new kid on the block at Aussiecon4 in Melbourne. She told me her background was in animation. She worked on Lord of the Rings, which is what took her to New Zealand, where she has lived for ten years after travelling the world ceaselessly. Her family is Iranian, Jewish and English, and her husband is French. They have a cute little four-year-old daughter who was wearing very covetworthy pink boots. Her husband designed the evocative cover, showing a quaint flying machine in the tree canopy.
Tymon’s story is based in Mary’s tree world–the canopy of the tree is as large as the Himalayan mountain range. We talked about Avatar, and I told her about Kaaron Warren’s Walking the Tree, but Mary Victoria’s tree world was originally based on Iggdrasyl, the Norse legendary tree which encompasses the world. Tymon the protagonist is a rebellious orphan, raised in a Seminary. (Mary doesn’t apologise for her use of familiar tropes!) On completing his studies he is sent to a distant part of the canopy, as assistant to a dissolute missionary. It is there that he meets with the people who have been used as cheap labour by his original masters.
One of them is ritually sacrificed annually to the tree by being thrown off into the swirling cloud-filled depths below. After getting to know the locals, Tymon becomes disaffected from his origins, and joins forces with the oppressed peoples. To tell more is to spoil the story!
Mary scrapped the first version of her book, and then rewrote it entirely from scratch. Her second volume is due out in February, so we don’t have to wait long to find out what happens next.
This review first appeared in the Aurealis Magazine subscriber newsletter.

Win Books and DVDs in our October Subscriber Newsletter Competition

This month Orbit have given us THREE copies of New Zealand author Helen Lowe’s debut novel Heir of Night. And Madman Entertainment have once again come up with a great DVD prize of THREE copies each of The Fifth Element and 20th Century Boys.

Subscribers to Aurealis Magazine should refer to this month's aurealisXpress newsletter for details on how to enter.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Book Review | Path of the Stray by Kim Falconer

Review by Crisetta MacLeod

The prologue leads us from a familiar Falconer scene into the first book of a new trilogy. In an austere and deteriorating world, autocratically ruled, Luka is working with cryogenically preserved DNA to drag wolves back from extinction. He links up with Janis and her daughter Loni, witches both. Janis is working on nanotechnology and when combined with Luka’s research…but I’ve said enough, the story will be spoiled. Suffice to say that the werewolf results of their combined efforts are spirited away to a parallel world which is free of pollution and oppression. One baby wolf is lost in the transition, and as an abandoned and resentful orphan becomes a cruel oppressor. Falconer peppers her story with astrological references, as we have come to expect from her. She also uses another Falconer trope, in that the two worlds between which her characters travel have differences in elapsed time.
An engrossing read demanding full engagement from the reader.

This review first appeared in the Aurealis Magazine subscriber newsletter.

Russell Blackford reviews Classic Australian SF series

Australian writer, philosopher and literary critic, Russell Blackford, has reviewed each of of the 6 books in the Classic Australian SF series:

The Crowned Skull by Fergus Hume

The Shrieking Pit by Arthur J Ress

Vandals of the Void by James Morgan Walsh

A Bid For Fortune by Guy Boothby

A Week in the Future by Catherine Helen Spence

Out of the Silence by Erle Cox

See our sidebar for links to the Aurealis Store.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

AussieCon 4 Schedule for Aurealis Magazine and Chimaera

Aurealis Magazine will be in the Dealer's Room at table 10.

Nuts and bolts: Editing YA spec fic, an insider’s view

Editing YA Speculative Fiction requires special skills. Industry insiders share their experiences.

Sarah Hazelton, Zoe Walton, Amanda Pillar, Rani Graff, Stuart Mayne (chair)
Friday 10am, Room 212

Directions in Australian horror 

Tracking the movement from the traditional to the new, and maybe back again.

Stuart Mayne, Bill Congreve, Angela Slatter, Trent Jamieson, Honey Brown
Friday 3pm, Room 210

The best-kept Secrets of Australian horror 

Our scholars present an introduction to the under-known genre authors of Australia’s past.
Stuart Mayne, Lucy Sussex, Kyla Ward, Marty Young
Saturday 1pm, Room 204

Classic Australian SF Launch - Sunday 11am, Room 203

Classic Australian SF Panel - Sunday 12pm, Room 217

20 years of Aurealis 

Aurealis magazine has survived and flourished for 20 years. For Australian SF magazines, that’s several lifetimes. How did this happen? Come and hear about the journey, the lessons learnt, and how it all began from current and past editors.

Dirk Strasser, Stephen Higgins, Michael Pryor, Keith Stevenson, Stuart Mayne
Sunday 3pm, Room 217

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jatta by Jenny Hale

Review by Crisetta MacLeod

Here be dragons! This is a great tale in the best of fantasy traditions, but Jatta is a heroine with a severe monthly problem—she has been cursed, and on the full moon becomes a werewolf. Her father the king and her brother Arthmael seek to protect her as she horrifies all around them with her bloodlust and ferocious strength. The kingdom is also threatened by a tyrant who comes marauding through a magical portal. Jatta and Arthmael set forth on a quest to save the kingdom, and cure Jatta of her curse. With the aid of a magical object and loads of courage and perseverance… but I musn’t spoil the story! Just imagine wakening to find yourself covered in blood, with your bedroom destroyed, and your beloved brother horribly wounded—then imagine what it felt like to discover gradually that this bloody mayhem was all your own doing! This is a wonderfully imagined situation, and you will find Jatta’s doggedly faithful brother to be a likeable character indeed. So often the story seemed to be about to end in tragedy, and then…

Friday, August 20, 2010

Weblog for August

Weblog items appear first at our Twitter page: 

Fiona McIntosh will be on ABC's Talking Heads on 30 August 6:30pm

UTS Alumni Profile of Deborah Abela (Grimsdon)

2010 Ditmar Nominees

The Small Picture Podcast interviews Alexandra Adornetto (Halo)

Noni Hazelhurst interviews Director Joe Dante (Gremlins, Innerspace), in Oz for #MIIF, on ABC 
Radio mp3

Boomerang Books interview with Alexandra Adornetto (Part 2)

SMH interview with Neil Gaiman Also "Comic geeks take over the Opera House" Includes video.

Meanjin - Sci-fi Illustration: Travellers in Space

Klingon Cave Tours - In Australia!

Hugo award looms for legend among Legends | The West Australian features Jonathan Strahan

VoyagerBooks Chat with Kim Falconer in August!:

Sean Williams shares where his stories are made @BookChickCity

Latest Writer in Residence at is @RichardNewsome

GeekSydicate’s Women in Genre Fiction interview with Karen Miller

Open spec fic short story markets in Australia, a round up!

Comic Con video interview with Scott Westerfeld & Keith Thompson by Suvudu

Garth Nix and @JonathanStrahan contribute to the "What 'Sword and Sorcery' Means to Me" Mind Meld @sfsignal

Australian Speculative Fiction Blog Carnival for July @ HorrorScope

Paul Collins interview at Ripping Ozzie Reads

Two George Ivanoff interviews: at Aus Lit Review and SYN FM (direct link to mp3)

Glenda Larke on Geek Syndicate!

Margo Lanagan’s Singing My Sister Down—a SUDS production, 11-21 August!:

2010 Sturgeon Award Winners 

Damien Broderick tied for 2nd for story in @JonathanStrahan's Best SF&F of the Year #4

Rich Horton on four new Australian anthologies:

"Guest post: Creativity and the Scientific Mind by Graham Storrs | Not Enough Words" ( )

Sandy Fussell – Author Interview | The Australian Literature Review

Follow Alexandra Adornetto on twitter @AlexandraHalo

Angela Slatter's Drive-By interviews with Kaaron Warren Karen Brooks Lezli Robyn Jason Nahrung

Meanjin has six questions for Margo Lanagan

The Small Picture Podcast | Mars: A Survival Guide by Guy Murphy.

A limited edition version of Shaun Tan's 'The Arrival', with bonus material, coming in September:

Sydney Writers' Centre podcast: Patrick Ness

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Iron man—Armoured Adventures

Review by Stuart Mayne

It was not a surprise to see an animated YA show on ABC TV. What was a surprise was that it was an American super-hero show. Aimed at the young teen market, this show was developed hot on the heels of the blockbuster movie franchise. Produced by a French and Canadian company for Marvel Animation I like to think that taking production out of the US has benefited both production values and storyline in this series.
Personal interaction between the usual group of Iron man characters—Tony Stark, Pepper Potts and Jim “Rhodey’ Rhodes—is easy and complex; by no means is this a one dimensional superhero series. The 3D CGI animation is clean and crisp. Every detail is attended to, the armour is displayed to detail the navigation and in-flight stability and the internal armour environment is an expansively virtual reality area. This is an easy cartoon to enjoy for its visual qualities.
This is a no frills DVD collection of all 26 episodes in the series. There are no extras, no deleted scenes. But you will get a terrific YA show with great visuals, great scripts and complex storylines. Any teen would enjoy this. You may even get more than a grunt if you bring this home. Who knows, sometimes the impossible does happen?

* This review appeared in the aurealisXpress newsletter for August 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Book Review: Zendegi by Greg Egan

Review by Stuart Mayne

To me Zendegi is the most accessible Egan novel since his novelette Oceanic. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the technical detail of Egan’s work, but it can get the reader bogged down. Zendegi seems to me to be evidence that Egan is maturing and compromising some what in his work, allowing the lay reader in. For which I am grateful—Egan’s work deserves a wider local audience.
In Zendegi Nasim is a computer scientist (like the author), hoping to work on the Human Connectome Project—a plan to map every neural connection in the human brain. When funding is cut Nasim goes on to work on the computerized virtual world of Zendegi. Fifteen years down the track and the Connectome Project is back up and running. For Nasim, Zendegi is looking tired, so he decides to exploit the Connectome Project’s neural map to fill Zendegi with better Proxies. Chaos and controversy ensure.
This is classic Egan, exploring the meaning of humanity in a virtual world. Egan’s maturity shines throughout this novel, exposing the reader to deeper and more complex characters whose lives seem more real and less “Proxy”-like than earlier novels. An excellent introduction for the author’s local readers.

* This review appeared in the aurealisXpress newsletter for August 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Catch some SF on Australian TV or Online

In lieu of a review this month, we’ve got a round-up of upcoming or shortly expiring TV of the speculative persuasion. 

Paradox, a British science fiction police drama starring Tamsin Outhwaite, starts 17th of August on UKTV (Pay TV). It was cancelled after 1 season but might be worth a look.

Spaced, the geek-friendly comedy series starring Simon Pegg, is currently available on ABC TV’s iView. Episode 1 won’t expire for over a fortnight, so if you’ve never seen this fun series, go and check it out.

Also on iView is Zombie Hotel, an animated children's program about a hotel run by zombies. Episode 1 will expire in a week. The Iron Man series reviewed this month is also available, but starting with episode 10. In fact, iView’s Kids section is packed with sf. Well worth a visit.

True Blood Season 3 starts showing on Showtime on the 19th and will be available on iTunes soon after (there’s two “extras” up there now).

Two other series, not sf but of interest, are Human Target (loosely based on a comic book series) and Spartacus: Blood and Sand, starting August 18th on Go!

Book Review: Worlds Next Door edited by Tehani Wessely

Review by Crisetta MacLeod
This is a completely satisfying, wonderful collection. Whimsical, scary, funny, poignant stories, these could be read and enjoyed by any age group. And where’s the sex and gore that we think we need for modern fantasy? Entirely absent. Congratulations to all concerned, and especially Tehani Wessely, who brought about this very special state-of-the-art collection.
Meet a were-snail and feral frankenbooks. Find out what horrifies monsters. Laugh at demon ducks. Weep for exploitation of the love of a dog for his master, cry for a faithful neglected goat. There are lesson plans for classroom application on a website; similar material could be used for discussion in book clubs. Twenty five stories, all different, from hard-core scifi to only-just-speculative fantasy. This is a fine example of the small press anthologies that are becoming a feature of the Australian fantasy community, bringing sheer enjoyment to readers and creating a platform for our short-story writers, new and old. Onya, Tehani!
* This review appeared in the aurealisXpress newsletter for August 2010

What you could win in our latest newsletter competition

This month we have ANOTHER HUGE prize pool. Harper Collins Voyager have given us TWO sets of Duncan Lay’s three book series, The Dragon Sword Histories and TWO copies of Stacia Kane’s paranormal novel Unholy Magic. While Orbit have given us FOUR copies of Joel Shepard’s Haven.
See your Aurealis subscriber newsletter for August in your email inbox now for details on how to enter.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Book Review: Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey

Review by Carissa Thorp
Jill Jekel's father has died, murdered, leaving her with the legacy of the circumstances of his mysterious death and a locked box, an heirloom tied to their family history and the classic novel, Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde. Tristan Hyde has his own family legacy, something dark and unwanted. Attending the same school, and not just by some strange coincidence, they join forces to explore their connected heritage and solve the mysteries of their lives, falling in love in the process and putting their lives, and that of others, in danger.
Jekel Loves Hyde is a clever book, well written and expertly handled, but perhaps with too tight a grip on the premise. For me, it never really breaks free from the idea and becomes something touching. Rather, it seems a bit detached, too controlled, and it's characters with it. These certainly aren't normal kids, not with their family histories and tragedies, but the story could have done with more relatable heroes. Nevertheless, it's a good read and a worthy addition to the ever popular "classics-revisited" sub-genre.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Review: Wild Space (Star Wars - the Clone Wars) by Karen Miller

Wild Space opens when the Wars have exploded across the galaxy, and Republic forces and Separatists struggle to gain the upper hand. An injured Obi-Wan Kenobi insists that Anakin Skywalker and Padawan Ahsoka must attack General Grievous. When Obi-Wan is compelled to walk into a trap set by Palpatine, escape may not be an option.
And so Karen Miller steps up her bid to emulate Palpatine and conquer the known (fantasy) galaxy. Not content with writing her own brand of blood soaked epic fantasy or writing for the Stargate franchise, Miller has taken the Star Wars universe by storm and presented us with a rip-snorting tale of high adventure. From the first political machinations of the aftermath of the battle of Geonosis (end of the Episode II movie) to the desperate battle for survival on Zigoola you will be gripped by a strong narrative that drives the action-laden plot onwards to its conclusion. How can you not enjoy this kind of novel? It is escapism of the highest order.
Star Wars is a story telling masterpiece and Karen Miller has added to the mystique with vim and vigour.

Review by Stuart Mayne

Monday, July 19, 2010

Weblog for July

Recently on Carissa's Weblog at Aurealis News
ABC RN's Artworks on Nawlz, a near future sci-fi interactive online comic by Stu Campbell   
"Out among the Red Men" ABC RN's Hindsight on 19th C literary trend of lost civilisations in the centre of Australia   
TwelfthPlanetCast Ep 5 features Tansy Rayner Robert's upcoming story in Sprawl   
Writer on the Verge interview with NZ author Mary Victoria by Blake Charleton Also @VoyagerBooks   
"A different view" - MCV - Melbourne Community Voice for Gay and Lesbian Readers   
All welcome at Worlds Next Door book launch, Aug 19 in Rockingham - details here:
In July's Good Reading Magazine (@GoodReading) "Steampunk. What is it?" by Michael Pryor. And it looks like the digital edition is now iPad friendly.
Says Trent Jamieson (@trentonomicon): "Think I missed the point with my book trailer"
From Solaris Books: Rowena Cory Daniells now has a twitter account! Go follow her, make her feel welcome! @rcdaniells (via @readinasitting)
Here's Tansy Rayner Robert's Creature Court Trilogy: (via Kaaron Warren)
Melina Marchetta interviewed by her mentoree Jessica Flood for NSW Writers' Centre Also link to her class on July 24th.
Writing Graphic Novels with Chewie Chan at NSW Writers Centre, 15 August
Weblog items appear first at our Twitter page:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

TV Review: Being Human, Season 2

ABC2, Fridays 8.30pm *
Review by Carissa Thorp
I loved the first season of Being Human, so I was really looking forward to season two. It was definitely worth the wait. Never predictable, in spite of having so many tropes as integral parts of the story, Being Human continues to please and build anticipation in me like no other series has in a long time. The struggles of the ghost, Annie, the vampire, Mitchell, and the werewolf, George, to live as normal lives as possible are interesting and never trite, and all of the lead actors are great; not one of them lets the side down in believability or intensity. While this year's "Big Bad" threatens to be a bit of a cliche, though a perfectly plausible one, I'm not worried. I expect the story to play out in a most unexpected way. If you haven't seen the first series, catch it on DVD or on iTunes. Highly recommended.
* Stations and Times given are for Australian viewers

Saturday, July 17, 2010

DVD Review: Ghost Hunt

Ghost Hunt
Madman Entertainment
Review by Carissa Thorp
Mai Taniyama is a student who literally stumbles across the investigation into supernatural occurrences at her school's neighboring abandoned campus. Mai becomes a temporary assistant to Kazuya Shibuya, teenage owner of and lead investigator at Shibuya Psychic Research, a company brought in by the school to solve the mystery of the haunted building.
A novice at this kind of thing, Mai is thrust into a world populated by ghosts, poltergeists, spirits, and other psychic phenomena, as well as the strange people who deal with them, including mediums, monks and priests. She takes it all in pretty well, considering, and steps up to play her part in solving the mystery.
An entertaining mix of mystery and the supernatural, with touches of romance and humour, Ghost Hunt feels like a teen X-Files. It's definitely more mystery-adventure than horror-thriller, though, and fairly mild-mannered as these things go. 
The developing relationships and story plots are well paced and complicated, and though many of the characters seem implausibly young to be "professionals" at this kind of thing, they spark off each other nicely.
I enjoyed what I saw of Ghost Hunt. Check it out for yourself.
(You can see full episodes of Ghost Hunt for free on Madman's site.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book Review: Death Most Definite by Trent Jamieson

What a scamp young Steve is! When you are a Pomp (necromancer), life (and death) is a matter to be taken seriously. But not our mischievous hero—he will happily fall in love with the beautiful, but dead, while running from gunshots and the bureaucratically anal bosses that are determined to make his life hell. With his family and friends dying all around him, it falls to Steve to take a stand and stop the rot.
What a scamp that Trent Jamieson is! To have created such an engaging supernatural thriller that is as perky and sultry as Brisbane. What a coup to have such a groovy series set in a city whose next claim to SF fame is that it hosted Australia's first science fiction novel, written by Thomas Lucas in 1894. It is always great to see a city other than the usual literary cities used, and Jamieson uses all of Brisbane's quirks to their best effect. While this is a triumph of a novel for first time novelist, Jamieson, it is also a triumph for Brisbane.
And the good thing is that the second instalment is coming out in December this year. That's nice to know…because everyone knows that living in Brisbane can be hell.

Review by Stuart Mayne

Monday, June 28, 2010

Book Review: The Darklands Trilogy: Nightpeople, Skyfall and Daywards by Anthony Eaton

This trilogy paints an evocative picture of post-apocalyptic Australia, a thousand years from now. Two populations are clinging to survival. The first group—the Darklanders—live by hunting and foraging in contaminated land enclosed by a huge black wall, and are guided by gifted Dreamers who can communicate by ‘reaching’ magically to the Earth Mother. The second group of survivors, the Skypeople or Nightpeople, live in an artificial, cocooned technological environment; upper classes live in luxury while an underclass serves them and lives in squalor.
It has become clear that neither society is ultimately viable, and it will take co-operation between the groups for humanity to survive. The Darklands people have mutated and adapted, but live very primitively, and have only a tiny population with a limited gene pool, whereas the Skypeople have extremely sophisticated technology and medical knowledge, but have not evolved at all. Their artificial society has become unstable both because of entropy to the aging fabric of the physical environment, and social entropy tearing their unstable society apart. They seek to understand the genetic makeup of the Darklands people, to enhance the genetic pool available and perhaps isolate the genes that make people ‘viable’ out of doors in the fierce, contaminated climate.
The first volume introduces us to Saria, who may be the last viable baby born to the Darklanders. The second centres on Lari, a disaffected son of the upper class in the tech city. Thus the author gives us an intimate picture of the deserts and forests of the primitive tribe, and by contrast, the doomed technology-dependent city society.
Saria and Lari team up, and with others from both environments form the Clan who are the focal group in Volume Three, Daywards. Children from the next generation—Dara and her twin brother Jaran, with their cousin Eyna—are now the chief protagonists. There is an ongoing social and political struggle in the Clan—is it betrayal to co-operate with the remnants of the tech civilisation, or is it expediency for the survival of them all? I found this third volume the least convincing, as Clan members variously tricked each other, betrayed their group, sulked, and resorted to Earth Magic inconsistently, while the aged Saria of Volume One wisely oversaw their doings. To say any more would be to spoil the story for readers. In spite of my misgivings about the ultimate resolution of it all, I found this trilogy to be an engrossing and wonderfully imagined exploration of a highly credible Australian future.

Review by Crisetta MacLeod

Friday, June 25, 2010

Book Review: Tracato by Joel Shepherd

Tracato is another strong volume in Joel Shepherd’s Trial of Blood and Steel series. After the events of Petrodor, Sasha and her companions Kessleigh and Errolyn flee to Tracato, a major city in the serrin-held territories of the Bacosh. Tracacto is a hot-bed of intrigue, divided as it is by tensions between the serrin, the city’s elected Council and its supporters, and the long-displaced feudalists, all wound tighter by the impending invasion of their lands by the Verenthane faithful, amongst whom are members of Sasha’s family.
Tracato starts out slowly, mired down with setup, backstory and world-building concerns. It’s definitely worth persisting past the half-way mark though, where it really takes off (this has been a pattern throughout the series, by the way). Dominated by the themes of clashing religious, philosophical, and political views, Tracato is really strongest in its exploration of the inter-personal and familial conflicts. And Sasha is particularly strong because she has grown so much and become a greater, and far more sympathetic, heroine for it. Shepherd’s battle scenes in Tracato are of particular note as well. I look forward to the fourth and final volume, coming soon.

Review by Carissa Thorp

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Movie Review: Iron Man 2

Review by Lachlan Huddy
Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johannson, Samuel L. Jackson
Rated: M
Out: Now

It has been a refrain in the months leading up to Iron Man 2’s release—expectations were low for the first instalment, which soared—can Favreau and Co. meet the celestial benchmark they set back in ‘08? Well, let’s put it to bed: yep, sure can.

Favreau knows what boosted his opening chapter into the stratosphere and here he gives the audience more, more, more of it. Robert Downey Jr, the ex-badboy turned tentpole stud, here unleashes his effortless charm in a way that he hasn’t since the criminally-ignored Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, and even the coldest of hearts will warm to his Tony Stark in minutes. Sure, he’s a self-confessed narcissist, playboy and unapologetic philanderer with a ream of sins for which to atone, but he’s just so damn seductive, and he and the other stellar actors make Iron Man 2 sing. Witness the verbal stoushes between Tony and Rockwell’s Justin Hammer, the pitch-perfect screwball-comedy sparring between Tony and Paltrow’s Pepper Potts, or the effortless chumminess Downey and Cheadle conjure between Tony and Rhodey, and you know you’re watching that rarest of things: a blockbuster with real heart and soul. Sure, the kids might come for the metal-suited mayhem (which is bloody good), but there’s something here for mum and dad, too: a reminder that it’s still okay to have fun at the movies.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

SF TV Celeb interviews from the ABC

Here's some links to SF TV celeb interviews I found recently on Richard Stubb's Melbourne Afternoons blog:

Johnny Galecki
Mary McDonnell
Paul McGann
Jane Badler

Streaming or download available.