31 March 2010

Mithril Wisdom is taking part in Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon

This is an awesome idea. Over at Dewey's Read-a-Thon, readers and bloggers everywhere are being invited to take part in a 24 hour non stop Read-a-Thon. That's 24 hours of fantasy novels for me! The Read-a-Thon starts at 1pm GMT on Saturday April 10th and runs until 1pm GMT on Sunday April 11th (there is a list of different starting times for time zones on Dewey's Read-a-Thon blog).

I'm pretty excited about this, and I encourage everyone to take part. Just hop onto the blog and sign up to be a reader. The idea is to blog about what you're reading and update everyone on how you're doing, as well as commenting on other blogs to see how they're getting on. I've got to finish Wrath of a Mad God (Raymond E. Feist) and also read Feast of Souls (Celia Friedman), Living With Ghosts (Kari Sperring) and Azarrii (Jamie D. Stacey). This will be the perfect opportunity for me to catch up. I expect a LOT of coffee to be drunk that day!

So stick around here to read about my slow descent into madness, and pop on over to Dewey's blog and sign up to all the fun. See you all on the 10th!

27 March 2010

Review: Alice in Wonderland directed by Tim Burton

Alice in Wonderland is a 're-imagining' of the original novels by Lewis Carroll; Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass. This is one of Tim Burton's 're-imagining' movies, which we've seen before with Planet of the Apes and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. What Burton does it go back to the source material and interpret the story fresh from the original author, rather than remaking what's already been done. The problem with this is that the original adaptations are so well beloved that there is often major criticism of his work.

Alice in Wonderland sees a 19 year old Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returning to Wonderland, which is now under the rule of the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). Though she has no memory of being in Wonderland before, she is quickly reunited with her old friends; the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), the Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee (Matt Lucas). It turns out that the residents of Wonderland have been searching for her; it is her destiny to take up the sword of the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and slay the Red Queen's Jabberwocky (Christopher Lee), thus paving the way for rebellion against the Red Queen and the freedom of Wonderland.

I watched the film in 3D and, despite the eye strain that I'm slowly getting from watching most movies in 3D nowadays (anyone else getting this too?) the movie looked stunning. Although it wasn't typically Burton (black and white stripes, snow etc.) you could tell that he had a hand in crafting the world of Wonderland. The land oozed strangeness, but you also got a feel for the desolation incurred because of the Red Queen.

The range of actors, both live action and in voice, was well chosen and brilliantly executed. Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter was (unsurprisingly) performed with a very unique twist. He seemed almost bipolar in nature; his usual upper class English light hearted nuttiness (with the inclusion of the lisp as a homage to the original animated movie) occasionally bled away to reveal a thick, gruff Scottish growl that spoke gibberish and had an air of violent insanity about it. It was a really nice contrast to the rest of the characters, who are plain old silly. There was a fantastic part where the March Hare (Paul Whitehouse) stops mid rant to exclaim "SPOON!" and thrust it in the audience's face, to which the entire cinema erupted in laughter. The casting of Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry and Christopher Lee as the Caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat and the Jabberwocky respectively was an excellent choice that would have only been further enhanced by the inclusion of John Hurt in there somewhere.

However, despite this range of talent and the beautiful visual landscape, there was something in the movie that seemed to be lacking. I think it may have been that Burton was creating a film that was meant to be somewhere between childlike and adult, but it never really brought both in successfully. The visual feast of Alice re-exploring Wonderland and enticing her curiosity meant that the deeper aspects to the plot were often glossed over; there could have been a little more focus on the importance of this rebellion against the Red Queen and the implications of what her rule has done to Wonderland.

In conclusion, I'd recommend Alice in Wonderland to anyone, but make sure that it is seen in 3D in the cinema. It would make for a fun movie filled with quirky and well characters and a brilliant world that captures the strangeness of Wonderland as seen through Alice's eyes. Just don't expect much depth with regards to the storyline. Burton himself said that the original story was more like a series of events rather than a coherent plot, and while he tried to flesh out a story from this, the semi patchwork form can be seen. Still, a very fun movie to watch.

26 March 2010

Superheroes - Fantasy or science fiction?

No comments:
Today I discovered the trailer for the upcoming superhero romantic comedy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, directed by Edgar Wright (TV's Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) and starring Michael Cera (Superbad, Year One). The story follows Scott Pilgrim (Cera) in what seems to be your typical boy-meets-girl comedy. However, in order to win her heart, Scott must fight off her six ex-boyfriends (and one ex-girlfriend). Oh yea, all of her exes have super powers, are evil and are intent on killing Scott. Pretty normal stuff.

The trailer looks hilarious, supports a good cast and has that definitive Edgar Wright stamp that his fans have come to adore (the inclusion of comic book typography and sound effects is a ncie touch). It also got me thinking: does this film count as a fantasy or a science fiction movie? Does any superhero story come under either category?

I've always tended to place superheroes in their own genre for this very reason. There's so much variation, and sometimes in the same world the focus can swing from fantasy to science-fiction to fantasy and back again. For example, many of the Marvel superheroes are clearly meant to be science fiction. The Incredible Hulk was made as the result of exposure to gamma radiation; Iron Man utilises technology beyond our present understanding; The Fantastic Four acquired thier powers through exposure to cosmic radiation. That's all fine and dandy. But what about Thor? There is no scientific or alien explanation for his powers - he is the Norse God of Thunder, the son of Odin. This is fantasy.

Also, look at Spawn. A mercenary is sent to Hell and makes a pact with a demon to return to earth, becoming a Hellspawn in the process. The mystical overtones to this story mark it out as a fantasy and not a science fiction.

Even where the science fiction element is blatant, the creators of these superheroes can still throw a curveball. Marvel 1602 is a series of comics set at the time of the discovery of the New World, and features many of the Marvel characters that usually are completely science fiction in their origin (many of the X-Men, Nick Fury, Captain America and Spiderman). In this world, the same characters are seen using magic as opposed to super powers.

So where do we draw the line? Should we treat superheroes as science fiction and ignore the exceptions that appear? Should we keep the superhero genre as a distinct category that does not associate itself with either genre? I haven't included the superheroes who don't necessarily count as superheroes either (Batman, the Punisher, most of The Watchmen etc.) so where should these guys belong?

What do you think best defines the superhero genre?

25 March 2010

Just received: Living with Ghosts by Kari Sperring

Following my cheeky request in my post about the British Fantasy Society awards, Kari Sperring, author of Living with Ghosts, very kindly sent me a copy of her book. Many, many thanks to you, Kari!

This highly original, darkly atmospheric fantasy novel immerses readers in a world where ghosts and other malevolent spirits seek entry into mortal realms—invisible to all but those who are not entirely human themselves. Drawn into the ancient city of Merafi, yet barred from entering by an ancient pact sealed in blood, these hungry haunts await their opportunity to break through the magical border and wreak havoc on the city’s innocent denizens. 
And as a priestess and prince weave a sorcerous plot to shatter the pact and bring ruin on Merafi, only a failed assassin-priest who is now a courtesan, a noble lord married into the ruling family of Merafi, an officer of the city guard, a woman warrior who was the former lover of a now-dead lord, and the ghost of that lord himself stand between Merafi and the tidal wave of magic that may soon bring ruin flooding down upon the city.

I'm looking forward to get stuck into this one. I'm still slogging through Wrath of a Mad God at the moment. I've recently got myself 2 jobs to pay for rent while I'm at University, which seriously cuts into my reading time (plus, I'm just not being immersed in Wrath. I think it's because I've not followed the story from the beginning, hopping in during the middle of the series has just confused me).

Again, a big, huge thank you to Kari Sperring, and I wish you the best of luck with the BFS awards!

22 March 2010

British Fantasy Society 2010 Awards - The Longlist

 The British Fantasy Society has posted up its longlist of entries for its 2010 awards. There are a lot to choose from, and a good variety of categories including Best Novel, Best Anthology, Best Comic, Best Artist, Best Television and Best Film. What would be a great addition to this list would be Best Video Game (in my humble opinion, video games have become every bit a part of cultural media as books and films). The list is pretty long so you can view the full list of nominees on the British Fantasy Society site. I'll just give you a run down of some of the entries that I'll be keeping an eye on:

Living with Ghosts by Kari Sperring
Best Novel
Living with Ghosts by Kari Sperring (DAW Books)
Neil Gaiman's BatmanTo be honest, I didn't know any of the books on that list, but this one caught my eye. Maybe it's the dark edge of the novel that drew me to it. Maybe it's that the author is a historian who specialises in medieval Wales (the Welsh are world renowned for being extremely patriotic, so I come under that category). The concept sounds new and exciting. The malevolent dead are attempting to break the barrier that keeps them separated from the living, and it is up to a select few to thwart their attempts. Much praise has been given to her world building and the emotions and interactions of her characters. I'd like to read this one for review on here (if you're reading this, Kari, a review copy wouldn't go amiss, wink wink).

Best Graphic Novel
Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert (DC Comics)
I'm not usually a DC fan, but I adore anything written by Neil Gaiman. The story of this one seems a powerful and slightly mystifying one. Batman is witness to his own funeral, but something seems out of place. Is he really dead? It's a good way to mess with the reader's heads in trying to deal with the death of such a beloved character.

Stephen Youll
Best Artist
Stephen Youll
Wow. I love the distinctive styles he has for both fantasy and science fiction, but both equally epic. What strikes me most is the realism in the expressions of the characters that he creates. He is also able to convey the emotion beneath the superficial, which is something that is extremely difficult to get across on a still painting. I'm glad I looked him up, I'll definitely keep an eye on this one!

Best Film
Sherlock Holmes directed by Guy Ritchie (Warner)
This wasn't fair. There were so many good movies on that last, and my first choice would have been Star Trek (probably the best film of 2009. If you haven't seen it, GO NOW. I'll wait). I opted instead for Sherlock Holmes, which I feel has gone by largely unnoticed by many. Guy Ritchie successfully makes the transition from gangster flick to Victorian drama that is packed with both wit and action. Brilliantly played by Robert Downey Jnr. and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson respectively, Sherlock Holmes  is the kind of film that you want to watch several times in order to see if you can spot certain clues and ticks before they are revealed. Add in the fantastic elements in the suggestion of magic and the occult, and you have a great action/drama on your hands.

Best Television
Being Human created by Toby Whitehouse (BBC3)
Again, a cruel list of equally lovable shows to choose from (Doctor Who, Merlin, Misfits, Big Bang Theory) but I felt that Being Human deserved the most recognition. Set in present day Bristol, Being Human is the story of a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost who share a flat together, attempting to live normal lives as human while all manner of chaos erupts around them. The fact that a US series has been commissioned is testament enough to it's success as a show, and the UK version is simply brilliant. Well acted, well written and with enough good old British funnies to distil the darkness that is prevalent throughout.

So there you have it. What are your thoughts? Who do you think deserves to win?

20 March 2010

Trailer - Shrek Forever After


I think this series has gone on for too long now. The first two movies were funny, but Shrek the Third was, despite the presence of both John Cleese and Eric Idle, pretty weak. Now the Shrek franchise seems to be going the way that many fairytale sequels go after a time - the 'let's go back to the time of the first movie and reverse it so that an entirely new sequence of events plays out'.

From what I got in the trailer, Shrek is feeling kind of down because, despite being happily married and having kids, Shrek misses being an ogre. A chance meeting with Rumplestiltskin means that Shrek gets his wish - but Rumplestiltskin gets the kingdom of Far, Far Away. Cue previous characters such as Donkey and Puss in Boots not knowing who Shrek is, and for some reason Fiona is the leader of some ogre warrior clan (where the hell did these ogres come from?). So it's up to Shrek to reunite his friends and battle the evil Rumplestiltskin and save the kingdom.

This will definitely be a DVD movie for me. I watched Shrek the Third in the cinema and I was disappointed, but if I'd watched it on DVD I would have thought it to be okay. The Shrek series is still pretty funny, but I think it's becoming somewhat lacklustre and people aren't as wowed by it as they once were.

13 March 2010

A brand new look

1 comment:

I've been wanting to do this for a while. Since I started this blog I've not been happy with the range of options available on these Blogspot 'default' themes (but themes from other sites alter the structure way too much). I finally managed to settle on a colour scheme and layout that I think suits (many thanks to artist Miriam E Lewis for doing most of the work on that!).

I've also (finally) designed a header logo for the blog, and I think it looks pretty nifty. That sword guy in the corner of the banner I think will be the mascot for Mithril Wisdom. His name is Angry Sword (I spared no expense on originality there). I'm thinking of delving into creating a webcomic featuring this little guy (I'm already a writer for Epic Comics so I've got a bit of experience in doing this sort of thing) but for now he'll be good as a mascot.

Any comments or critiques on the look or content, anything I should add/remove/change are welcome too. I'm more or less a newbie in the realm of fantasy fiction blogging so any and all help I can get would be much appreciated!

12 March 2010

A Game of Thrones brand new TV series needs your help!

I just saw this over at Geroge R R Martin's Not A Blog. As many of you may already be aware, a TV series is has been commissioned that will be based on his novel A Game of Thrones, of the Fire and Ice series. The series is being filmed. I've not read the novel, but it seems to be generating quite a bit of buzz across the Internet. Sean Bean will be starring in the series (TV's Sharpe, Lord of the Rings, National Treasure, Equilibrium) so I think it's definitely got some potential. Not much else has been released, and you're likely to find out a lot more information across the web.

The exciting thing about this is that the production team are looking for people to take part in the making of the series (they're not looking for extras though). All you need to qualify is to be in the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland (the series itself is being filmed on location in Northern Ireland) and actually have some experience in the departments that they're looking for. There are a load of different positions, so if anyone would like the opportunity to work on a fantasy series then you can apply at the Northern Island Screen website for more information.

I didn't pay much attention to the production of this series, but I think I'll give it some more notice in future.

10 March 2010

None of my business: Warhammer 40,000 movie, "Ultramarines"

Though a fantasy nut through and through, there are some things in the realm of science fiction that I think are too excellent to be ignored. These things that I find will form part of a new feature on Mithril Wisdom - None of My Business. This will be for those little bits of non-fantasy related (but still in the realm of speculative fiction) elements that are too good to ignore.

I've been following the blog for the new movie Ultramarines - a computer generated adaptation set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. I was reserved when I first heard about this, since when do endevours such as this ever go right? But as time goes on I'm getting more and more excited by the prospect.

Precious little has been released regarding the production, and nothing at all has been released about the plot save for what can be inferred by the title of the movie. The production team have emphasised countless times that the focus of the movie is aimed solely on the fans of the game; a very smart move, since Warhammer 40,000 is played by (literally) millions across the globe. At to this those that have been introduced to the world via the novels published by the Black Library and the hugely successul Dawn of War series, and you have an enormous fanbase that will most definitely revolt if the source material isn't looked after.

The movie will be directed by Martyn Pick (who has worked with animation but hasn't really delved into the realm of movies) and produced by David Kerney and Bob Thompson (who both worked on the LEGO Bionicle movies. I've not seen them but I know they're CG animation, so that's a plus). The crucial member of the crew so far is Dan Abnett, responsible for a wealth of Black Library novels including the famous Gaunt's Ghosts series, as screenwriter. I'm sure that Dan will do his best to ensure that the 40K universe is adhered to.

The cast list was announced yesterday, and they have enlisted some great actors (with equally great voices) to play the parts. These include Terance Stamp (Yes Man, also voiceovers on Halo 3 and Oblivion) as Severus; Sean Pertwee (Dog Soldiers, Equilibrium) as Proteusl; Donald Sumpter (TV series Doctor Who and Being Human) as Pythol; and the legendary John Hurt (1984, The Elephant Man, Hellboy and TV's Merlin) as Carnak. A great lineup that will make the movie sound amazing.

The motion capture work is being done by Image Metrics, who specialise in realistic facial feature capturing that can be seen in Grand Theft Auto IV and Assassin's Creed II. No real animation has been released with the exception of a test model of a head. The studio have also released a few snippets of concept art ranging from bullets to entire planet systems, and everything so far is looking great.

You can keep up with the information on the movie by visiting the Ultramarines Movie Blog.

7 March 2010

Fantasy Art Showcase - Patrick Reilly

Beyond the Gate by Patrick Reilly
Written by

This installment of the showcase is of Miami based artist Patrick Reilly. I've had a few of his works as a desktop picture in the past and I rediscovered him a few weeks back. His portfolio is awesome.

What strikes me about Reilly's work most is the brilliant use of lighting in his pieces. If you take a look at Dragonfire (below), you'll see how the light acts on the skin of the dragon and on the translucent wings. There's also a great sense of suspense that can be seen in a lot of the multi character pieces such as Beyond the Gate and Sacrifice. You can feel the tension between the characters in these pieces, and the great use of lighting and scale adds to the drama.

My favourite piece from his online portfolio is a toss up between Beyond the Gate and Into the Cave. The first one reminds me of the work of Boris Vallejo, one of my favourite artists. The figures of the two humans are brilliantly sculpted. Into the Cave I think I prefer, maybe because it's a speed painting  (it astounds me that something that awesome could have been 'hurried') but also I love the sense of foreboding that you get just looking at it, plus the light streaming down from above and the flicker of the torchlight adds to the gloom.

Reilly has done artwork for fantasy novels (Beyond the Gate is one of these) as well as cover art for comics and magazines. You can see his full online portfolio on the links below. All images used are copyright Patrick Reilly. Click any of the images to go to Reilly's DeviantArt entry.

Dragonfire by Patrick ReillyInto the Cave by Patrick Reilly

What's your preferred art on a fantasy book cover?

6 March 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time [movie trailer]

Prince of Persia poster
Just saw this posted over at Destructoid. I was a bit reserved at first when I saw the original trailer for Prince of Persia. Jake Gyllenhal seems an unlikely choice to play the Prince (see Donny Darko and Brokeback Mountain for reasons why).

This new trailer has made me less sceptical about the movie.

The Prince is doing what he does best; running across walls, jumping and stabbing things. This is the Prince of Persia that we know and love. The casting of Ben Kingsley as the Vizier is a touch of awesomeness too, and I like the effects used to show the reversal of time. This'll be one I'm likely to watch in the cinema.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is out in cinemas from May.

4 March 2010

Dante's Inferno [video game review]

No comments:
I've been waiting for this one since I saw a teaser image sometime last year, and after the mixed reviews it got, I was looking forward to getting my hands on it and giving it a whirl. There's been much talk of it being a clone of God of War (well yes, they're both mythological hack and slash games, the comparison is inevitable) but I won't be looking too much into game mechanics, mainly the world and the fantastic elements of the game.

Dante's Inferno is loosely based on the first part epic poem The Divine Comedy by 14th Century Florentine Dante Alighieri, in which the title character descends into the nine Circles of Hell. The game has Dante as a knight of the Third Crusade who travels through Hell in order to rescue the soul of his love Beatrice. In each circle, Dante must confront each sin that he committed on earth, the culmination of which led to both his and his beloved's damnation.

Visually, the game is stunning. You can tell that great efforts have been made in order to ensure that each circle of Hell is crafted to represent the corresponding sin, and that it also matches the environment laid down in the poem e.g. the third Circle, Gluttony, is completely made of human waste, sludge and filth, whereas part of the seventh Circle, violence, had the damned drowning in a river of boiling blood. The level of detail is immense, from the enormous giants who follow Dante as he travels through Hell, to the souls that writhe and reach out from within the walls.

I love the level of customization that you get within the game. You can either condemn enemies with the scythe (granting you 'Unholy' EXP) or absolve them with your crucifix (granting you 'Holy' EXP). You can combine these to give you a good mix of choice when it comes to upgrading your powers in combat and defence. Also, you can gain and swap a number of magical abilities, and there is a wealth of 'relics' hidden throughout the game (which give Dante vastly different benefits). Combining these upgrades you can more or less create your own playing style to suit your opponents.

Despite some reviews slating the game as being unfaithful to the source material, I found the story very entertaining. To be fair, if the game was a carbon copy of the poem (in which Dante is a mere observer to the events going on in Hell) it would be boring. Having Dante as Crusader knight allows you to stay within the same time frame that the poet was writing in, so you still immerse yourself in the (nether)world that he created.

The downside to the game is that it was a bit too short. I managed to finish the main story in about 9 hours on Zealot (normal) difficulty, but I didn't manage to unlock/collect everything. The one thing that comes in its favour is two extra modes that you get after defeating the main game. Resurrection Mode allows you to replay any circle with all of your upgrades so you can go back and pick up things you left behind. Gates of Hell is a gauntlet style endurance mode that had you pitted against everything in the game to see how long you last. There is also a downloadable expansion pack called the Trials of St. Lucia, which gives you multiplayer capabilities. Even though the initial game time is short for my liking, it's not bad for a hack and slash game, since anything more 'epic' in scale would get repetitive and boring very quickly.

In conclusion, Dante's Inferno is a beautifully made slice of Hell that is action packed and is visually stunning. The short game time and limited replayability does mean that it's not really worth it at full retail value (unless you're willing to purchase the expansion), but fans of mythology and of the original concept will adore it. A recommended title that will have you playing again, if nothing else than to re-explore the Hellish world beneath.

Dante's Inferno is out now for Xbox 360 [link], Playstation 3 [link] and Playstation Portable [link].

Official site [link]

The First Chapter of Trudi Canavan's The Ambassador's Mission

No comments:
This just in - Trudi Canavan has released on her blog an exclusive first chapter to her new novel The Ambassador's Mission, the first novel in The Traitor Spy Trilogy. 

This book continues the story on from the events at the end of the Black Magician Trilogy (which I haven't read yet, so I better get to it!). I absolutely loved The Magician's Apprentice and I can't wait for this new one to be released. 

The Ambassador's Mission is out in May. In the meantime, you can read the first chapter here.

2 March 2010

Audio extract from Blake Charlton's Spellwright! Plus other news.

No comments:
That's right, an audio extract of Spellwright by Blake Charlton can be heard in the video below. You can hear the prologue and first Chapter of the book for free. Need I say more? The voice is quite good, and the dialogue between the protagonist and the 'creature' is interesting. I also like the way the system of magic is being dealt with in this novel. I can't seem to immerse myself into audio books, I much prefer the pleasure of reading a book. Listen after the jump.

In other news, I finally have my laptop running again. I've been without a laptop since September last year, then I finally caved in and bought a new one after New Year. 2 weeks later and the HDD fails on me. I was sent a new HDD and a system recovery disc set today and I'm back in business! I've lost pretty much everything but at least I've got a computer again.
Also, for your interest, here's a list of the slowly increasing pile of books that I'm going to review:
  • Wrath of a Mad God by Raymond E. Feist (reading now)
  • Feast of Souls by Celia Friedman
  • Azarrii by Jamie D. Stacey
I've also got a review of Dante's Inferno for the Xbox 360 to review at the end of this week. Also, I was at a book sale at my University campus and bought 3 other fantasy books. I've just been offered a part time job too, so this is going to take some time to get through all these. I'll keep you posted.
Blake Charlton's official site: [link]

Spellwright Audio Sample from Blake Charlton on Vimeo.