Monthly Archives: September 2013

Vampire Lover Blog Award for A Toast to Dragons

First off, sorry about last Thursday. I was out of town and unable to post on my computer. And then, when I got home, I figured that it was okay to miss one day out of my two posts-a-week schedule. Hope no one was too disappointed. Now, on to more important things.

Vampire Lover Blog Award
As some of you may know, Megan Cashman of http://megancashmanbooks.wordpress.com/ nominated my blog for the Vampire Lover Blog Award. I will only partially accept the nomination because I won’t quite follow all the rules. The rules are:

  • You must be a vampire.
  • Link back to the one who nominated you.
  • Display the Vampire Lover Blog Award image.
  • State 11 facts about yourself.
  • Answer 11 questions from the list at http://vampireloverblogaward.wordpress.com/about/
  • State these rules.
  • Nominate (and notify) at least 3 fellow bloggers.

I haven’t been doing too much web-surfing lately, so I will be unable to follow the last rule. Sorry! I know it’s only three bloggers, but my time is very limited.

Anyway, the vampire under discussion here is my very own Lucian val Drasmyr, the villain from my dark fantasy novel, Drasmyr.

So, Lucian, tell us about yourself. More specifically, give us 11 facts about yourself.

11 Facts about Lucian val Drasmyr

  1. I’m one thousand years old.
  2. I can endure sunlight.
  3. I was a great general once.
  4. I became a vampire by choice.
  5. I once served the great warlord Morgulan the Mad.
  6. I served as guardian for the Sceptre of Morgulan for 500 years.
  7. I broke free of the spell that bound me to Morgulan’s sceptre.
  8. I hate Morgulan.
  9. I hate Zarina the Black, Morgulan’s sorceress lover.
  10. I have roughly the same traditional powers of your legendary Dracula.
  11. I fear nothing.

11 Questions Answered:

1. Does living as a vampire have the same appeal as prior to being turned (if you’re that type of vampire)? If you had to do it over, would you?

A. I never considered the appeal when I was originally turned (by magic and not by bite). I joined the ranks of the undead as a service to my master, a master I now despise. Still, the power I obtained through that dark ritual is enticing enough for me to repeat the process if it were necessary.

 

2. What aspect of humanity or being human have you lost or used less—or has diminished the most?

A. The sniveling weakness of compassion.

 

3. If you live forever, or for thousands of years, and are difficult to kill, and are very strong and powerful … how do you not become a sociopath? And go off and start doing anything you want and acting on any impulse?

A. I do do whatever I want. I don’t understand your question.

 

4. What’s it like to be a vampire?

A. You shall soon know … limitless power, unending pleasure. It will all be yours! Whether you want it or not.

 

5. Do you miss food, the sun, or your heartbeat more?

A. Occasionally, I miss the taste of a fine wine, but the others, I can do without. Although, technically, I now possess the strength to endure the sun if I choose.

 

6. What was your first feed/kill like?

A. Exquisite. I spent five hundred years bound to a Sceptre that was hidden away in an abandoned castle. I went many years between feedings. The first was much like finding an oasis in the midst of a parched desert. Words cannot describe the relief and sweetness of that first taste.

 

7. If you had the choice to no longer be a vampire—to just be a human again—would you go for it?

A. Of course not. What kind of foolish question is that?

8. Do you find the idea of being undead—‘living’ forever, sleeping in a coffin, and so on—as horrifying as I do?

A. No, I don’t. And don’t worry, you’ll get used to it, too.

 

9. What do you think of the recent fashion for vampire books and films? Has it made your life harder or easier?

A. As I normally reside on the world of Athron, events here on Earth do not, generally, impact me. However, I must say that I wish the blind romantification of vampires by your populace would spread to my own world: I would find hunting amongst the humans there to be so much easier … and amusing.

 

10. Vampire physiology must be very different from human physiology—how is human blood digested and processed in the blood system?

A. Your addiction to science is a growing weakness of your society. How do I digest human blood? I don’t care. I simply kill and feed. Next, I suppose you’ll ask how I can transform into a wolf or bat? When will your society accept that some things simply cannot be explained, and are actually better when they are not?

 

11. What happens if you suck your own blood?

A. I would likely come up dry, unless I had recently fed. In such a case, it would just be recycled through my system again.

Book Review: Prince of Thorns

Prince of Thorns is Mark Lawrence’s debut novel. It tells the story of Jorg Ancrath, a mere youth of fourteen who has already seen too much of the world’s horror. He was born and raised a prince in a royal castle, but in his tenth year, his mother and younger brother were assassinated before his very eyes, and the guilt and pain of that experience still weigh heavy on his soul.

 

At first I thought this book was set on an alternate Earth. There are references to Plato, Jesus, and other elements from our world, but I did not recognize the map and there were elements of real supernatural activity. As the story progressed, it became apparent that it was meant to be a post-apocalyptic version of our world. Which I have mixed feelings about. Lawrence pulled it off well enough; it wasn’t a flaw in the writing that concerned me. I don’t know, I guess I just prefer my fantasy to be pure fantasy, without the corruptive touch of science—because once you let science into the story, everything has to have some kind of scientific support.

 

Anyway, the story revolves around the young Jorg Ancrath who is leading a band of outlaws, ravaging the countryside, killing, raping, and plundering. They are not nice fellows. Then, Jorg and his men return to the king’s castle where danger of another sort lurks around every corner, and Jorg is given an “impossible” mission to prove himself. He sets out boldly, but this time his very future is on the line.

 

Strengths: the writing was good, the story was interesting, and there were no logical flaws that I saw. The book was written with dark humor. Weaknesses: although the main character was a fourteen year old, I would not recommend this book for that age group: I would limit it to adults. There was violence, of course, but that’s to be expected in fantasy—and there was also some limited sexual scenes. My biggest complaint, however, was that the hero was as much as villain as anything else. He was cold and calculating and did a number of horrific things. Call me old-fashioned, but I like my heroes to be actually heroic and to possess a few virtues. They should be looked up to; they should not be exemplars of savagery. Beyond that, I can think of no other major weaknesses.

 

I’ll give Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence four stars out of five.

Old Movie Review: The Heat (2013)

“The Heat” is the latest movie featuring Sandra Bullock. In it, she plays a somewhat arrogant, uptight FBI agent named Ashburn. She’s due for a promotion, but all the other agents don’t like her. She’s a smug know-it-all, and her captain knows it. So, instead of promoting her right away, he gives her a mission to prove her worth; he sends her to Boston to find a drug lord. There she partners up with Detective Mullins (played by Melissa McCarthy), a foul-mouthed, street-fighting, rough and tumble cop.

 

In the beginning, the two do not get along very well. Ashburn steals Mullins’ parking space, and then her case. But Mullins will have none of that. She tries to threaten her way back onto the case—which was originally hers—steals an FBI file, and generally goes about driving Ashburn nuts. Eventually, their superiors pair them together whether they like it or not and they go about looking for the drug lord, fighting all the way. Eventually, though, things smooth out and they become friends. The plot revolves around the ruthless drug lord, a mole in one of the various law enforcement departments, and the developing friendship between Ashburn and Mullins. There’s a few explosions, a few people being shot, and other typical cop-movie activities.

 

Strengths: the acting was good. The characterization was good. The storyline flowed together well; there were no obvious logical flaws that I saw; and there was plenty of humor. Weaknesses: I’m of mixed minds about the profanity. I just get tired of every other word being an f-bomb. That said, the profanity did serve to characterize Mullins quite well, so perhaps it was necessary. There was also a brief spat where Ashburn swore up a storm, which was kind of humorous. And, again, served the needs of the story. Still, it seemed to be overdone some. Also, the character Sandra Bullock played (Ashburn) was unfortunately similar to the character she played in Miss Congeniality years ago. I’m not sure if that’s a weakness or not. There was also a twist in the movie—not one that was too shocking—actually, it was more an evolution of the plot than an actual twist. You knew there was a mole, revealing who it was wasn’t really too shocking. Anyway, although there were no major flaws in the movie, it never gripped me.

 

Ultimately, I will give “The Heat” a rating of three and a half stars out of five.

Old Movie Review: The Call (2013)

The movie, “The Call,” although fiction, isn’t really fantasy or sci-fi; but, I’ve said it before: this is my blog and I’ll review whatever I want to. Anyway, “The Call” starts with an interesting concept for a movie. It stars Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin as 911 call operator Jordan Turner, and teen abductee Casey Welson, respectively. But first, let’s back up and give the background.

 

The movie begins with Jordon at her desk answering 911 calls. All is fine, until one goes horribly wrong. It is a call from a young teenage girl who is frantic because someone is breaking into her house. Jordan answers the call and does her best guiding the girl to safety. Unfortunately (spoiler alerts ahead), they are disconnected and Jordan makes the mistake of calling the girl back. As a result, the prowler is alerted to the girl’s presence and the girl winds up dead. Fast forward, six months later. Jordan, who has moved from active duty to a teaching position at the center, finds herself through an unlucky chain of events once again taking a 911 call from another unfortunate teenager (Casey Welson) who has been abducted and locked in the trunk of a car. Again, Jordan tries to help the young girl, doing her best to guide her to safety. It is a hair-raising ride. People get killed. And soon, Jordan realizes that the man who has abducted Casey is the same man responsible for the death of the young teen Jordan failed. Things fluctuate, taking turns for the worse and turns for the better as the story progresses. Eventually, Jordan takes matters into her own hands while off-duty and hunts the perpetrator down.

 

Strengths: this movie had a lot going for it. First, it was a kind of unusual premise for a movie (at least, I thought so). The acting was good, the action and tension were well-paced and well-constructed. There were no major flaws in logic that I noticed.  And, of course, it had Halle Berry … who is just smokin’ hot! Flaws: I can only think of two flaws, really. First, some of the characters (the victims and such) did some really stupid things which, of course, led to their quick demise. Finally, my biggest complaint is that at the end, Jordan and Casey pretty much take justice into their own hands. True, the perpetrator was a wacked-out dirtbag, but we have courts and a legal system for a reason. Still, it was a pretty good movie.

 

I’ll give “The Call” four stars out of five.

Old Movie Review: Into the White (2012)

“Into the White” is an interesting little film about three Germans and two Englishman trapped in a cabin together during WWII. Not exactly the friendliest of compatriots. It’s a movie by Petter Naess. I have no idea who that is, but he did a good job with this movie. It also stars Rupert Grint from the Harry Potter films (Ron Weasley). The film begins with a downed Nazi warplane. Of the four man crew, three men have survived. They are lost in a winter wasteland in Norway. They make what preparations they can and then head off in pursuit of the coastline hoping to find their way back to German territory. Shortly, they find a cabin in the middle of nowhere and set up a temporary home to escape the harsh weather for a bit. No sooner have they made themselves comfortable, but two English airmen arrive. They, too, have been shot down. Surprisingly, the Germans invite the Englishmen in, and then, unsurprisingly, the Germans take the Englishmen captive.

 

What follows is an intriguing tale of survival in a harsh place. The two groups of men must learn to work together to survive. One of them was injured during the plane crash making for increased difficulty and hardship and eventually forcing a crude amputation. The roles of captors and prisoners are reversed a couple times until both sides agree to do away with the weapons. By the end of the movie, the men have become sort-of friends with each other. One of the Englishmen weeps when one of the Germans is killed, and what-have-you.

 

Strengths: the acting was good, the filming was good, and the special effects (what limited ones there were—amputation) were acceptable. The plot held together well and provided an intriguing look at how even the worst of enemies can become friends. Weaknesses: I don’t think there were any major weaknesses that reflected poorly on the integrity of the film, but I do have to take issue at one point. In the middle of the movie, there was a kind of relativistic assertion (it wasn’t stated that way, but it was kind of implied) where the Germans claimed they were simply doing what the Englishmen were doing or had done.  German aggression was no different than English colonialism. I’m not an expert on history, so I can’t go tit-for-tat between the English and the Germans. But I do know the English never tried to shove an entire race of people into gas chambers and ovens. English hands aren’t perfectly clean by any stretch of the imagination, but Nazi Germany embodied an evil which should not be wiped away in a fit of relativistic ambiguity. Other than that, the movie was actually quite good.

 

I’ll give it four stars out of five.

Movie Review: Riddick: Rule the Dark

Riddick: Rule the Dark is the third installment in the series of movies chronicling the adventures of outlaw and fugitive Richard Riddick played by Vin Diesel. The movie begins a short while after the last ended. It provides a brief flashback to fill in missing details. Apparently, Riddick has been betrayed as Lord Marshal of the Necromongers and left stranded on a desolate planet full of vicious creatures.

 

The first half hour or so just follows Riddick and his struggles to survive on this hostile world. Then he finds an old mercenary outpost and sends a distress beacon. The beacon summons two different ships, both bent on capturing or killing Riddick. But Riddick, being the ultra-alpha male, just starts picking them off one at a time. After he’s killed three, he approaches the mercenaries to try to work out a deal because he knows a rain storm is coming and with it, a horde of nasty monsters that come out in the bad weather. His deal with the mercs turns sour, and, amazingly, Riddick is captured. When he comes to, the mercenaries begin to interrogate him. But then, the rain storm hits and with it come the nasty critters. The mercenaries decide they need Riddick’s help to face these formidable creatures. Together, can they brave the horrors this world has in store for them and Rule the Dark?

 

Strengths: this movie was a testosterone filled action movie. The things they had Riddick do were, more or less, impossible, but it was still cool. I mean, he starts the movie with a broken leg, which he fixes by wrenching back into place. Seriously? Still, it was cool watching Riddick repeatedly outsmarting and taking out the mercs one at a time, and then kicking butt against the monsters. Weaknesses: well, as I suggested above, I think they made Riddick too superhuman, too awesome. It took, I think, three horse-strength tranquilizers to take him down. Again, that’s a bit much if you are going for “realism.” Finally, there is some nudity in the movie (that’s not necessarily a weakness, just a viewer warning—of course, it is rated R, but there is a shot of full frontal nudity). Anyway, on the whole, I think this movie ranks about as well as the first (Pitch Black). My favorite in the series so far is #2: The Chronicles of Riddick.

 

Overall, I’ll give Riddick: Rule the Dark three and a half out of five stars.

Old Movie Review: Solomon Kane (2009)

Solomon Kane tells the story of the ruthless mercenary, Solomon Kane, and his quest to save his own soul from the black deeds he has done. His stories were originally published in Weird Tales by Robert E. Howard, the creator of the Conan series (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solomon_Kane). I’m not sure how close to the original stories this movie keeps (because I’ve never read the stories), but on first blush it seems faithful. Solomon Kane is a tale of gloom, death, dark sorcery, and demons.

 

The story begins with Solomon Kane leading an assault on a castle. A skilled warrior, he wades through men like a scythe through wheat, only to find the treasure room to be guarded by a room of mirrors. He leads his mercenary men through, but these mirrors are portals allowing demons to reach through and claim his men. Finally, he breaches the final door and enters the treasure room where he comes face to face with “The Devil’s Reaper,” one of the more powerful demons, indeed the harbinger of the devil himself, who tells Solomon Kane that his black deeds have sealed his destiny with hell. Unprepared for such, Solomon dives out a window and flees. Then, he must begin the long journey back to redemption forsaking violence … at first. But soon he learns that through dark sorcery a former priest has summoned demons that now haunt his homeland enslaving the poor and converting the strong. It is up to him to stop the dark sorcery of this corrupt soul and release his homeland from the demons that besiege it. Will he be successful? Or will the forces of hell reclaim his soul for their own designs?

 

Strengths: this movie had a lot of elements I liked: magic, demons, sword fighting, and courage. The hero, although starting as a villain, was likeable in a macho, kick-butt sort of way. The innocent were innocent, and the evil were clearly evil. Sometimes, that can be refreshing. There was also the overriding theme of redemption (although it was redemption through violence) and the oft-repeated lesson that sometimes evil cannot be reasoned with. Both are good marks for the film. Weaknesses: well, some of the dialogue was weak, in my opinion. Also, the story began kind of slow. Although, setting the stage for a character as a man of peace may be a worthwhile goal, it has a tendency to be boring. Plus, at this point, I’ve seen it done a million times.

 

All that being said, the film was still worth watching. I’ll give Solomon Kane three and a half stars out of five.