Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Ghost Assassin: An indie comic book

A first for this blog, I'm reviewing an indie comic that isn't actually out yet!
From the talented people at DarkSlinger Comics,
Ghost Assassin Issue One, launched on KickStarter today, January 23rd, 2018.

I've had the opportunity to speak with the creators and read through the KickStarter material, and I have to tell you, I am excited about this comic!  So this review is about what I've read, why I think its a cool campaign to support, and to give you easy access to check it out.

Enjoy this preview!

What it is:
A new comic from the talented team at Darkslinger Comics.

From their campaign:
"The goal of this Kickstarter is to raise funds for the printing of issue #1 of the new Ghost Assassin ongoing series.  The first issue of Ghost Assassin is print ready.  All artwork, coloring, lettering and graphic design for the first issue are complete.  Issue #1 is a 32 page full color comic written by Adam Watson with artwork by Joel Cotejar and Charles Carvalho with coloring by Edward Bola and Gulliver Silva.  The cover for issue #1 is penciled by Joel Cotejar with coloring by Ceci De La Cruz."

Ghost assassin tells the story of David, an assassin living with the sins of his past.  This is a literal truth as he sees the souls/ghosts of people, including those of people he killed.

What excites me about this book is the unbridled potential of this new series as an ongoing story, coupled with great art, and a story theme I can sink my teeth in.

What I've read:

David is ruthless in that he has no qualms about killing.  Its natural for him, which is a terrific train for a professional killer.  Having to live with seeing the ghosts of people, especially the people whom you killed, is a neat twist that I see a tremendous amount of potential in.

Why I'm exited:

The concept is intriguing.  I haven't tried to pry the story out of the creators, beyond what they are doing as their theme and some juicy bits they let slip (check out their podcast to learn more on that), but I imagine a number of possibilities.

Living with the ghosts of those he's killed means that David is literally haunted by his past. Is his ability to see the unquiet spirits of the dead what lead him to be so callous about taking life?  I really look forward to discovering the layers of this character issue to issue.

Why its a cool campaign to support:

1) Indie comics are the crucible of original thought for today's comic book fans.  Your choices aren't limited to just the major publishers anymore.  Indie comic book writers and artists are producing intriguing stories with high quality art all the time.  This is a great example.

2) Really impressive backer reward levels.  This campaign is put together in a simple and straightforward way that lets you get copy as reward, but that's not all!  There is a premium reward tier where YOU can be illustrated as a ghost in an issue.  That is a really great reward so if you can afford it, take advantage and be the drawn right into this intriguing story.

Check out the campaign for some tantalizing tidbits and to get your hands on this great new comic from the talented team at DarkSlinger!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Laundry Files: The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross

Welcome to my review on another fine work by Charles Stross.

Today's subject is "The Fuller Memorandum", oh boy!

Bob finally has a manager he respects and gets along with.  If the universe of Charles Stross has proven anything, it is that Bob cannot have a happy work life.  Keep in mind that while Bob reports to his manager on the organization chart, he works for the Eater of Souls, in the person of Angelton.  While this distinction is subtle, it places Bob in a position that is grooming him for greater responsibilities while teaching him (the hard way) about following the demands of a rigorous civil service command protocol that relies on a seemingly arcane chain of command.

This book is so much more though!

From the previous books we've been treated to tidbits about Angelton and his power both within the organization and his supposed arcane might (which is routinely hinted at).  Angelton is so much more than he appears though, and this book grants the reader some firm insight into the depth of this character.  In other words, PAY ATTENTION to Angelton!!!  There will be a test afterward that will jeopardize the sanctity of your sanity.

There are bad guys in this story too, and they are of the most devious and dangerous sort.  In any intelligence organization personnel are always a concern.  You trust people with secrets even though humans are notoriously terrible at KEEPING secrets.  So when reading this book enjoy the irony of the vulnerability of an organization which routinely defends the Crown against alien intelligences from beyond space-time, which finds itself in jeopardy from human actors.

There is a lot going on in this novel, and all of it is important.  I'm going to keep this short, with no spoilers.  You'll thank me after you read the book.

This book, like all works by Stross, is a masterpiece of the writer's craft.


My Thoughts:

This book stands well on its own even without the support of the previous books to bring you into the world Stross has crafted.

That said, if you haven't read the series yet ... start at the beginning. Seriously, you'll be grateful you did.

Bob ends this book with a large dose of mental and physical trauma.  The effects of the Fuller Memorandum haunt him (literally) through the series to date.  This is a book you absolutely must read if you intend to go any further in the series.  Savor the experience.

Recommended For:

Fans of the previous Laundry Files novels, law enforcement officers (seriously, you'll enjoy this),  people in the intelligence community, IT personnel, fans of Lovecraft's work, anyone who loves a good spy thriller, and Sidney (please read these... please).

Not Recommended For:

Fascists, Nazis, traitors, real life cult leaders (this book will give you ideas I don't want you to have), Putin, people with psychiatric disorders, and alien entities from beyond space-time.

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Dresden Files: Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

Hello.  Thank you for joining me for this review.

The Dresden Files has been a fan favorite for most of two decades now.  Today, I'm reviewing the third book in the series, Grave Peril. 

Grave peril further immerses the reader into the Dresden files setting.  In this book, we get a lot of information about ghosts, death, and the true nature of the vampires of the Red Court.  The reader is also introduced to examples of two other factions of vampires in the character of Thomas of the White court of vampires (incubus and succubus who feed on the life force of victims they seduce) and Mavra of the Black Court (classical vampires of the Bram Stoker variety).  Mix in with this a cameo appearance by a dragon, the revelation of the nature of ghosts, Harry's faerie godmother (yikes!), and some robed characters who re-appear in later books. 

Grave peril also teaches us a lot about Harry Dresden as a person, and reflects his underlying humanity.  In spite of impossible odds, against all reason, he launches an assault to rescue his girlfriend/lover Susan and a sex addicted victim (Justine) from the Bianca of the Red Court.

There are a few underlying story elements that deserve recognition:

1) In many ways this story is facilitated by Bianca's need for revenge on Harry, as he revealed the ugly truth of her nature in their last encounter.  Harry bested her in that meeting, but Bianca never forgot it.  She orchestrated a plot that put Harry in a no-win situation that should have cost him his life, and his soul.  In the end, her search for revenge is frustrated, she is downed by the ghosts of her past (literally) and through her actions, she brings about an incident that the supernatural community cannot ignore.  Bianca's rise to power, is reflected upon later in the series, as she amassed a considerable amount of mystical power in a short time.  It is later speculated that unseen puppeteers who have been throwing the supernatural world into chaos may have facilitated her rise to power.

2)  Thomas of the White Court:  There are a lot of spoilers I will not dish out here.  I do want to point out to you, that you should consider Thomas's actions carefully.  As the series evolves you'll find that this is a vampire who is acting with a purpose, but not one you would immediately expect.  If you read through the series, do so in order of release, so that once you get to "White Night" you can fully appreciate the subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle actions from Thomas. 

3) Harry and Susan, the star crossed lovers:  Remember the old saying, that a man will destroy himself for love and quite readily?  Remember also the old saying, that you should be wary of the man of peace who is provoked to war?  Yeah, keep those in mind.  People do crazy things for love, and Harry Dresden as a young man in his twenties and early thirties isn't the most emotionally stable character to begin with.  Add in the horrors he has faced, the stress of his chosen profession, the power he wields, childhood trauma, and it should be evident that this is a person you should not wish to push over the edge.  Bianca made the mistake of counting on Harry's humanity to be a weakness, on his commitment to his organization to be his constraint, and she made a horrible mistake in doing so.  If you wondered whether Harry Dresden loved Susan before, this book will put that question to rest.

4) The underlying story of Harry's faerie godmother.  This storyline is still very much in play.  Pay attention to her.  She's tricky.

5) (Spoiler) ~ The events of this book lead the White Council and the Red Court of vampires to war.  It gets ugly in the streets from here on and the war is an ever present back drop from here all the way to the end of "Changes".  War changes people, and in the Dresden Files, this war changes Harry Dresden a bit at a time. 

6)  The underlying story of the manipulation of the supernatural world's communities.  There are things in this book that don't seem important (at all) until way later in the series.  Beware of strangers giving strange gifts.

Edit:  Item (7)  I can't believe I forgot to include this originally.  Michael Carpenter is in this book.  One thing you can count on, is that when Michael Carpenter is involved in a Harry Dresden story, things are going to be extremely dangerous for Harry.  So dangerous in fact, that only the knight of the cross can keep him safe.  Michael Carpenter is an incredible character, so savor his every appearance.


My Thoughts:

Grave Peril is another great example of the evolution of Jim Butcher's writing skills.  You will see that by the time he has written this book, his narratives are much more compelling and his crafting of his story is fabulously done.  As fine a work as this book is, Butcher continues to improve his story telling and his writing abilities over the next several books.  Grave Peril gives you a glimpse at the great write Jim Butcher becomes.

Recommended for:  Everyone who read Storm Front and then read Fool Moon.  Fans of supernatural romance, romantic tragedy, stories of loss and revenge. 

Not recommended for:  People who have not read Storm Front and Fool Moon.  Seriously, read those two first, then come back to Grave Peril.  It makes a world of difference in how you perceive the character interactions. 

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Laundry Files: The Jennifer Morgue, by Charles Stross

Welcome back!

Today I'll be reviewing another book by Charles Stross.

The Jennifer Morgue, is a fabulous story with elements that remind one of Ian Fleming's spy tales.  The difference here being that our poor protagonist, Bob Howard, turns out to not be the super spy of the story one would expect.

This book does a lot to flesh out the world setting of the Laundry Files.  Here we get glimpses into the interactions with other denizens of planet Earth, which live hidden among us.  This book also provides a sense of scale as to the power of the "magics" at work in the world, manipulating people and events toward particular goals.

Bob Howard stumbles through this book believing he has been cast in the role of super spy sent to foil a terrible plot (broadest terms here folks, stick with me).  His dashing companion being a not-quite human succubus he is metaphysically tied to.  This team-up brings a lot of havoc to poor Bob, and as he nears the conclusion of this supernatural spy thriller Bob finds himself doubting his ability to triumph.

Enter Mo.... 

When your love interest shows up to save your life, you should not be entangled with another woman.  You should definitely NOT be entangled with a succubus.  Alas, poor Bob, is in a no win position (which was precisely the point, on many levels).

Charles Stross once again proves he is a craftsman with words.  His narrative flows remarkably well, his grammatical choices are intriguing and his descriptions are evocative.  He proves that he is one of the most technically proficient writers alive today.

My Thoughts:
This volume of the Laundry Files is a great deal of fun wrapped up in the imminent doom of the world.  Add in a super villain, a beautiful and exotic femme fatale, demonically influenced cosmetics sales agents, dead people (lots and lots of dead people), alien horrors from beyond time, and the delicate machinations of multiple secret agencies and you've got a story worth reading.

Recommended for:
Fans of Ian Fleming's James Bond stories, anyone who liked The Atrocity Archives and Bob Howard, conspiracy theorists (this tale really hits on Project Azorian), people who work in the intelligence community (you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll have a good time), Lovecraft fans, Delta Green fans, X-Files fans, and anyone who enjoys a finely written novel.

Not Recommended for: Fascists, Nazis, real life cult leaders, Putin, people who plan intelligence ops (this book will hurt you the same way Fleming's work does), people with psychiatric disorders, and alien entities from beyond space-time.

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