Book review: “The Dark Side of the Road” by Simon R. Green

The Dark Side of the Road

What do you get when you throw a snowstorm, a family Christmas dinner, a big old manor house, a murder mystery, horror and Simon R Green’s writing in a blender and hit the start button?
This book: The Dark Side of the Road.
Introducing all new characters in this stand alone (hopefully it won’t remain a standalone) Simon R Green returns with his own particular, or possibly better peculiar, take on traditional British murder mystery novels like we’ve come to know and love.
A lot of referencing has been done that this is SRG doing an Agatha Christie, and let me assure you, other than the fact that they both did “who dunnit” stories, The Dark Side of the Road has nothing to do with the creator of Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot.

Without a doubt, this is one of the best books the author has ever penned down. It starts off with a simple request to our main character: Ishmael Jones, who, in long standing SRG tradition, is more than he seems, from his employer. “Come join me for a good old fashioned Christmas meal with my family, keep an eye on things”. And of course, from that moment on you know that things are not going to be what they seem. For the longest time (which never feels as too long), things seem pretty normal, with a side order sense that shit will hit the fan any minute. The author does a great job creating both a feel of the surroundings as well as the all new cast of characters, which builds up a suspense in such a masterful way that you know something is about to happen, but you are still surprised over the circumstances things are happening in.

Even when you find out what exactly is going on, he keeps on building, expanding the atmosphere and keeping the reader glued to the pages. Fair warning though for those with health issues: make sure to put it down every chapter after the first crime happens, else you risk getting some serious jump scares in later chapters.

This is probably one of his most descriptive books to date when it comes to delving deeply into the perpetrator. Some things that have been described in his previous books were never as scary as they are in this particular novel.

What I loved the most about the Dark Side of the Road isn’t the blending of several genres, the atmosphere or the suspense, which are all masterfully done, but the leading character. Ishamael Jones isn’t, like most of the male Simon R Green leads, practically invincible, relying on special powers or armour. Of course he has traits that set him apart, but for all of them he is still vulnerable. With him I got far less of a “oh he’ll save the day at the end, because he’s all powerful when push comes to shove” feeling than I get with other leading men. And that, combined with everything else, makes the Dark Side of the Road such a fantastic book.

For everyone that loves murder mysteries, and that can stomach some pretty scary scenes, this is a definite recommendation. And avoid looking at at descriptions on online stores, they may contain spoilers.

Movie review: Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 may seem like the umptieth Disney movie, especially the umptieth digitally animated one. Considering it’s by the team of Frozen, people may expect something along those lines. Nothing is less true as Big Hero 6 is one of the best things released by the Disney Studios since well, quite a while (possibly since Princess and the Frog, which was full of excellent Dieselpunk elements).

This Marvel/Disney collaboration is proof that both companies should work together more often, because this feature film is not only a magnificent feat when it comes to animation, but also has the same kind of imaginative storytelling and feel of adventure that Marvel movies have become famous for in the last decade.
Based on an old, rather obscure Marvel title of the same name (which I think may be re-released soon [but that’s just my guess!] considering the success of the movie), Disney reinvents both story and characters in the fictional, high-tech and futuristic world of San Fransokyo where traditional Japanese influences are crossed with the best of futurepunk and futuretech. Zeppelins cloud the skies alongside vehicles that have only been dreamt up in sci-fi settings. Japanese battlesuits, monsters and robots are go hand in hand with Tokyo style streets, traditional San Francisco trams whilst Japanese and Western architecture stand next to each other. Some of the background scenes are done so realistic that for a second you think you’re watching an actual live action movie rather than a digitally animated one. The use of colours is splendid, and the detailing on backgrounds as well as characters is amazing.

A lot of criticism has been made on this movie online, especially on sites such as tumblr. One of them being that Disney is stuck on the same character design over and over. Let me tell you something: once you are watching the movie you will see that this critique is entirely unjustified. Whilst the character Honey Lemon may look slightly like Rapunzel in some of the portrait type promo images, in the movie she is very much an original character. Also: most of the male and female characters have distinctively different body types, which is something that can only be encouraged. The characters are well developed for their part in the movie, and are as loveable as the casts of many other Disney movies people have come to love over the years. Even though the movie is all about science, robotics and superheroes, it has more than enough features to be interested to those that don’t much care about these topics as it is pretty well rounded as a whole and there is much more to the story than a bunch of students going after a villain. The only thing that can be said against it is that it is a mite predictable, but in the end of the day, it’s an animated Disney movie, so some measure of predictability is to be expected.

In short, Big Hero 6 is a fantastic piece of cinematography for animation fans of all ages. Fans of sci-fi, futurism, futurepunk and colourful animation in particular will find this movie appealing. And as this is a Marvel collaboration, yes, there is a Stan Lee cameo, and yes, you really should wait for all the credits to end, because in Marvel tradition there is a last piece of film to come after that. But I won’t say more, you’ll have to go see and hopefully enjoy this movie as much as I did for yourself.

Happy vintage Valentine’s Day!

Valentines Day 2015

Today is Valentine’s Day, the time of year to celebrate the people you love and appreciate (because let’s face it, it’s stopped being just a couple’s holidays and became something that friends celebrate amongst themselves as a sign appreciation a while ago) and because we appreciate all our readers, today we’d like to share an excellent tumblr with you which has plenty of weird, fandom, yet all fun to look at vintage Valentine’s Day imagery!
Check out vintage gal’s tumblr account for more images from back in the day, not just V-day themed!

Movie review: “Jupiter Ascending”

Jupiter Ascending

Imagine a space opera style movie with both casual, practical and elaborate costumes, visually pleasing combat scenes, all kinds of alien, human and everything in between species, interesting villains and bombastic space ships as well as magnificant scenery. Well you don’t have to imagine it much longer, because the creators of the Matrix trilogy are back with a new cyberpunk style sci-fi epos: Jupiter Ascending.

Enter Jupiter Jones (played by Mila Kunis), are reluctant heroine, stuck in a crap dead and end job and hating her life, ‘till one day it turns out that she’s more than she, or anyone she knows, has could have ever imagined. Suddenly her universe is expanding (quite literally) and she’s trying to figure out who, or what, she really is, aided by a not quite human new ally Caine Wise (portrayed by Channing Tatum), whilst trying to figure out what direction to give to her life and more importantly: how to stay alive.

Jupiter Ascending is a fantastic movie. Not only is it visually pleasing, with tons of cyberpunk and futuristic elements, the plot itself is masterfully executed and what really sets this movie aside is that it continuously makes you wonder what the hell is going to happen next, even though from the beginning on you can see the happy end coming from miles away. That said, the ending remains quite unsuspecting as Jupiter’s choice is quite remarkable. Timing is also superb in this movie, scenes are exactly the right length, and even with combat scenes you’re never wondering when the hell things are going to move past characters beating on each other.

In short, Jupiter Ascending is a remarkable and well executed example of what a sci-fi movie should be. Space opera is seldomly done well, and thankfully this movie is the example. A definite recommendation to everyone who loves sci-fi and/or cyberpunk.