Friday, 22 February 2013

Support Bane of Souls and other independent books

Good news! The Dacia Sandero There's a new piece up on the Guardian website by a fellow called Damien Walter, in which he's hunting for five great independently published works of sci-fi (sci-fi being taken in a broad way to include fantasy and horror).

The article is here: and whilst I'd particularly ask those who enjoyed Bane of Souls to comment and say so I'd also strongly encourage anybody reading this who's read a good self-published work to do the same.

If you did like Bane of Souls but don't want to spend the time signing up to the Guardian comment system you can instead click here ( to read my post nominating Bane of Souls and just click 'recommend'.
One of the biggest challenges self-published/independent authors face is getting noticed, particularly regarding coverage from big media organisations. It's all very well writing a masterpiece of twists and turns but the book market is enormous and it's easy to become just a drop in a very large ocean.

This sort of initiative, for which Mr. Walter deserves great credit, can help to increase the chances of some good coverage for independent authors.

So, whether it's Bane of Souls or another self-published book, please do read the article and recommend what you enjoyed.   


Monday, 18 February 2013

The Last Of Us info, and delay

More information regarding The Last Of Us, a PS3 exclusive scheduled for release in mid-June (due to a slight delay), has been released. Rather obviously, some spoilers will be below (nothing major, in my eyes).

Much of the information previously released has focused on the Joel/Ellie relationship and gameplay relating to gangs of human survivors of the plague.

However, we've now got a bit more info on those who have been infected. Whilst The Last Of Us is a zombie apocalypse game, its zombies are not the standard fare. Instead, they've been infected by a fictional version of a real fungus (which afflicts little creatures such as ants). Early stage 'zombies' run around (and are thus known as runners) trying to infect everyone they can. Happily, they're not too hard to kill.

Once the fungus progresses, though, things get more dangerous, and rather creepier. The fungus consumes the eyes and upper head of its victim, rendering him blind. He therefore finds the player not by sight but echo-location (hence the designation of clicker). They're much harder to kill (and remember, kids, in The Last Of Us bullets are uncommon) and can also kill the player very quickly. And they sometimes hunt in packs.

From gameplay videos I've watched fighting the zombies does look very tense and atmospheric. However, it's worth pointing out that the clickers look pretty repugnant, and far more unpleasant than the standard zombie.

There's been relatively little fungus/zombie information put out, and recent information does emphasise the survival horror dimension of the game. So if you're squeamish, you might want to give this one a miss.


Friday, 15 February 2013

Friday 5 and a new review

After Valentine's Day seeing my sole romantic contact come in the form of an e-mail from a gardening centre, there was some nicer (although not romantic) surprises today.

Richard Schiver, horror/suspense writer, has released his latest Friday 5 (a Q&A quintet), this time with none other than myself. The questions, and, indeed, the answers, can be found at the link below:

In similar awkward marketing/self-promotion news the lovely Miss Croft has just reviewed Bane of Souls. Naturally, 3/5 is a little lower than I would like. However, as with most things in life, criticism is less welcome but more useful than praise and I'll certainly consider her points for future writing. Her full review can be read below:

I'll add these links to the interview and review tabs.


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen

Dragon's Dogma was a game that entered pretty much under the radar but turned out to have some of the best fantasy RPG gameplay for ages (probably since Phantasy Star IV or Vagrant Story).

Using my advanced investigative skills (I checked Amazon for new releases) I've stumbled across Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen. This comes out in April for the PS3 and Xbox 360. A simpler way of thinking of it is a Game of the Year (GOTY) edition. It includes the original game and (apparently) all DLC.

This helpful video (not mine, I hasten to add) explains in more detail:

It's pretty cheap and people who already bought Dragon's Dogma get some extra goodies (rift crystals and some new armour) as a kind of thank you from Capcom (not sure how they decide you owned the first game. May come after importing a save, which can be done).

If you have not bought Dragon's Dogma yet and like RPGs, especially fantasy ones, this is a must buy. The original game alone is well-worth buying at under £20, and with lots of extras (mostly high end stuff) and increased character customisation this could be the gaming bargain of the year.

For those who do have the original game, it's more difficult to decide. However, I'm given to understand that the DLC has a price tag exceeding the £20 of the game, so on that basis it is value for money.


Sunday, 10 February 2013

Review: House of Shadows, by Walter Spence

I'm going to try reading more self/independently published books this year, and as House of Shadows won the vote at the Indie Book Club I thought I'd give it a crack. It's a bit unusual for me as it's fantasy but set in the real world, and is written in the first person.

The story follows Eugene, a teenager in 1980s America abandoned by his father and with a less than model mother. His reasonably normal little sister is the only real plus in his life until Penelope Ember, a rather tasty and well-heeled woman, takes an interest in Eugene. Desperate to earn Penelope's approval, Ace (as she calls him) works hard to improve himself only to discover… that the next few lines would give the plot away.

The author does a good job of capturing that certain period of a young man's life when he's both desperate to please but can flip that need to bitterness in an instant. However, my favourite parts of the book were when there was frenzied violence, which were very well-written and enjoyable.

Generally, the quality of the writing was very good and the story was immersive. Although it's not the longest book in the world I did read it in a couple of days and often found myself reading for longer than I'd intended.

Downsides are harder to think of. It is, I believe, planned to be the first part of a 12 part series, and as a rule I prefer short series and stand-alones. However, I certainly plan on giving book 2 a look.

It's slightly on the short side, but to be honest I'd rather read a somewhat short book than one padded with waffle. 

So, if you like real-world fantasy then you may well enjoy giving House of Shadows a crack.


Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Review: Viking: The Norse Warrior's (Unofficial) Manual, by John Haywood

Slightly strangely I got this in the post two days ago despite its publication date being the 11th. Odin favours me!

Anyway, this is the fifth Unofficial Manual, and follows on from Legionary, Knight, Gladiator and Samurai. Vikings, as all men know, are amongst the coolest warriors in history and I was very much looking forward to this book.

In line with the other entries in the series the Viking Unofficial Manual is a light-hearted but nevertheless highly informative and entertaining history. There are quite a few unfamiliar words (and I can now add Mikligard to the numerous names of Byzantium), but they're always clearly explained and the map near the back is useful for finding certain places I was unaware of (Wendland, for example).

The chapters have a natural focus on warfare, as this is an essential part of being a Viking (which was not so much a race as a lifestyle). I particularly enjoyed the chapters explaining the differing types of ship (both mercantile and war), varying weapons and which countries are best to pillage.

Lots of stuff I've read recently have had something to say about Byzantium, and it was very interesting to read about how the Vikings saw the city (they formed the Varangian Guard, a well-paid bodyguard to the emperor). Similarly, the social hierarchy (beyond kings and jarls) was entirely new to me and enjoyable reading.

Also of interest, and surprising, was the fact that the Vikings lost as many battles as they won, which seems slightly counter-intuitive. However, as the author correctly points out, the balance of results favoured the Vikings (ie if they won they got a load of plunder, but if their enemies won the reverse was not true) and, being the aggressors, this probably explains why the Vikings were so feared.

The plates are probably the best in the series so far, due to a combination of re-enactors and the great pictures of dragonships.

Once again, the series has produced an enthralling and entertaining book that offers plenty of detail without ever getting bogged down in it.


Monday, 4 February 2013

Console Wars

I've read in a few places that Dragon Age 3: Inquisition might be coming out for the PS4, which may come out in the latter half of this year.

Must admit that I'd be a bit irked at that, as I usually wait a couple of years before buying a 'new' console. They're pricey, and I prefer to be able to have several games I want to play before buying.

The first console I remember owning is the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis for Yankee doodles). Sega, with the Saturn/Dreamcast soon dropped out of the console wars and now the main players are Sony, with the Playstation(s), and Microsoft with the Xbox(es). I wonder if we'll see Apple or Google get involved in the near future.

From the Mega Drive to the Playstation there was a significant upgrade in controllers. The Mega Drive had buttons A, B and C, a d-pad (no analogue sticks, of course) and a start button. The Playstation generation added to this and created the basic configuration we have today (d-pad, two analogue sticks, 4 shoulder buttons, 4 symbol buttons, as well as start and select). Sensibly, they haven't tried to cram more buttons onto the controller.

However, there have been some interesting (and awful) developments of late. The various Wii 'controllers' seem to have gone down very well, and to actually work. Motion sensors which detect and interpret an individual's movement, however, seem to be hit and miss (and usually the latter). There's also the question of whether people have the room to prance around like a Mary Ellen, and whether they want to.

The Wii-U has gone for an additional controller which, (apparently) when held up to the TV screen, can show more information. This just seems pointless to me, if I'm honest. It's supposed to work on a functional level, which makes it better than motion sensors, but I don't see what it adds.

Another, more unexpected, change revolves around televisions. For the first decade or two of my life the big change that happened to telly was a fifth channel being added. In the last few years, though, everything seems to have gone crazy. We went to flat screens. Then ultra-thin flat screens. We got HD, and some have 3D (although they still don't seem to have really cracked that). I swapped my old fat TV for a flat screen some years ago and the graphics were improved by a staggering degree. That's great, of course, but I hope that we don't reach the stage where buying a new console means that a new TV is also needed to actually see its graphics at their best.

Actually, now I come to think of it, console wars are really weird. Generally in technology dual systems (betamax and VHS, 8-track and cassette tapes, blu-ray and HD-DVD) end up co-existing for a very short length of time before one (NB not necessarily better) system gets a critical advantage and the alternative is obliterated.

Yet videogames have had more than two rivals systems going back all the way to the first consoles/systems that could be bought and played at home. Hmm.