Tag Archive | "Reviews"

Flames

Apocalypse World RPG Review

Posted on May 20, 2011 by

While at PAX East this year, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a panel on developing independent RPGs. Vincent Baker was among the panelists, and I was incredibly excited to see the man who had created the well-known and critically acclaimed Dogs in the Vineyard. Immediately after the panel I went to his booth and saw that he had another game for sale, Apocalypse World. Its cover, featuring a nude, ambiguous form in a gas mask, haunched over and lit from behind, intrigued me– I had just finished my thesis on Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and was on an apocalypse kick, so although I had gone to the booth expecting to pick up DitV, I came away with a game I hadn’t even heard of before.

With Apocalypse World I didn’t really know what to expect. I admit, I don’t have very many systems under my belt– I’ve read far more games than I’ve actually played, and I don’t like to pass judgment on a system without actually playing it. But just from the get-go, Apocalypse World had a lot going for it.

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Blokes Tomb Of Horror 666 Review

Posted on April 29, 2011 by

“Created and put together by writer Jason ‘Bloke’ Crawley this latest issue contains 7 devilishly delightful tales brought together to form the hellish Issue 666. This is but one of 6 different cover variants for this issue so be sure to check out the other covers that are available here on Indyplanet including the Cover F wraparound Werewolves Vs Vampires!”

6th issue means 6 different covers! Can you believe that! 6 Covers to choose from and they are all above, Grade A top choice visual meat! The interiors on this one are on the level with the past issues. Nothing is short of Gore-geous from page to page, but Borroni stood out the most to me. Every story has a different look, and they all look great.

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Billzilla

Harlan County Horrors Review

Posted on April 21, 2011 by

Harlan County Horrors, edited by Mari Adkins, is billed as an anthology of regionally-inspired tales. With Harlan County being in the heart of coal country, one might expect a number of the tales to touch on aspects of mining, and that assumption is correct. However, there’s more to Harlan than the mines; for one thing there’s the people themselves, and where there are people, scary stories are sure to follow. These twelve stories are a showcase for tales of Kentucky coal country by a fine crop of writers, many of them with close ties to the state.

The lead story, “The Power of Moonlight” by Debbie Kuhn is a bitter lesson about a woman scorned and the folly of rash acts. It was a very good selection to kick off the anthology. Maurice Broaddus’ “Trouble Among the Yearlings” is a subtle tale that captures well the claustrophobia of being trapped in a mine. In “Spirit Fire”, Robbie Sparks weaves a tale that warns about making a deal that seems too good to be true.

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Monica Valentinelli

Review of Shadowheart by Tad Williams

Posted on April 15, 2011 by

There are books, and then there are books. Shadowheart, the fourth and final volume of the Shadowmarch series by Tad Williams, is one such tome. You may recall my review of Shadowplay, my review of Shadowrise and our publication of the Shadowrise preview. It seems like only yesterday when I started reading this series about feuding families, ancient legends, bizarre cultures, extraordinary creatures and colorful characters. Shadowheart brings it all to a close in an unusual way.

Why unusual? Well, first and foremost, the series was originally supposed to be three books — not four. After reading Shadowheart, I can see why Williams needed a whole ‘nother 722 pages to explore this story. Or should I say…stories?

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Billzilla

Dusk Graphic Novel Review

Posted on April 4, 2011 by

Originally published in 2009, Dusk is a graphic novel written by David Doub that follows the lives of Eve and Ash. Ash is a vampire, and Eve is a human who takes regular drinks of Ash’s blood that he provides to her. Ash seems a very thoughtful and considerate master, very much unlike many of the other vampires we encounter in these stories.

Ash’s blood gives Eve enhanced strength and speed after she consumes it. Eve needs the extra advantage Ash’s blood provides when going up against other vampires – she’s taken on the responsibility of being Ash’s right hand.

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Flames

Invaderz RPG Review

Posted on March 10, 2011 by

If you are a looking for a deep and philosophical game to explore the intricacies of your mind, then this is not the game for you. However, if you are looking for a light-hearted and whimsical romp in between long running campaigns then this game can easily fill that need. Early on the game touts itself as a ‘Beer and Crisps’ game (or a Beer and Pretzels game in the States), and it adheres to this easygoing philosophy.

One takes on the role of a Jerkian Warrior, a clone of the great leader whose purpose in life is to entertain the Exalted Emperor and feed the Exalted Emperor. It’s not an easy life being among the lowest ranks, and a gruesome (though entertaining) death is almost a certainty. One of the few ways to ensure your own survival is through treachery and betrayal of your fellow Jerkian Warriors; rank hath many privileges — one of the most obvious being fewer missions in which death is likely.

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Flames

Black Swan Movie Review

Posted on February 9, 2011 by

It’s a wonderful time to be alive, at least until the Mayan calendar runs out next year and the sun goes dark. The year is 2011, the internet rules, I have a magic box in my pocket that can access the
sum total of human knowledge, and a balletsploitation were-swan horror flick is a serious contender for five Academy Awards.

Part of the buzz about Black Swan is purely technical: in this film, Natalie Portman realizes the promise she showed way back in Leon (or The Professional, depending on your country of origin). As of Black Swan, she is one of the greatest actresses of our generation.

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Carmilla Theatrical Play Review

Posted on February 2, 2011 by

A beautiful young girl, alone in desolate Central Europe. Nightmares. Revenge. Mesmerism. Rationality eroding under the stress of supernatural evil, murder, and disease. Blood. Mere swords against the preternatural strength of the undead. And the world’s first lesbian vampire.

Got your attention? J. Sheridan LeFanu brought these elements together in 1872 — 25 years before Bram Stoker’s Dracula — in his novella “Carmilla”, a story that subtly tilts between the nightmarish Gothic terror-tale and today’s “realistic” horrors set firmly in the waking world. Generations later, Chicago’s Wildclaw Theatre company has adapted “Carmilla” for the modern stage. [Full disclosure: I wrote a short essay, pro bono, on LeFanu for the program book for this production.] Wildclaw’s Carmilla is the latest in a series of adaptations including Machen’s “The Great God Pan,” Lovecraft’s “Dreams in the Witch House,” and William Peter Blatty’s Legion that makes Wildclaw Chicago’s — and perhaps America’s — leading missionary of classic horror to contemporary theater audiences.

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alanajoli

Deader Still Book Review

Posted on January 24, 2011 by

Anton Strout brings us more madcap mayhem in book two of the Jane chronicles (otherwise known as the Simon Canderous series, but his girlfriend, the ex-evil cultist Jane, totally steals the show). Now a member of the Department of Extraordinary Affairs after leaving her cultist ways behind, Jane is working in the Black Stacks (the scariest library in urban fantasy) and discovering that she has a talent for technomancy. In fact, she’s so good with magic and machines, she rescues her boyfriend Simon from an attempt on his life in his Oubliette test over his cell phone. Her new gig working for the ambiguously moralled Thaddeus Wesker, Director of Greater and Lesser Arcana at the DEA is going swimmingly — except for the tension it creates between her and Simon, who doesn’t like her boss.

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Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom Review

Posted on January 21, 2011 by

The place of the pastiche in fiction is mixed at best: August Derleth’s Solar Pons is but a pale shadow of Sherlock Holmes, and the less said about Derleth’s “posthumous collaborations” with Lovecraft, the better. But in his collection of linked novelettes, Trail of Cthulhu, Derleth had the happy inspiration to combine the Cthulhu Mythos with Fu Manchu, and the result is a propulsive series of tales considerably above his usual mark. In Doc Wilde and the Frogs of Doom, Tim Byrd goes Derleth one better; he combines Lester Dent’s Doc Savage (as clearly as the laws of copyright will allow) and the Cthulhu Mythos – in the form of a young adult adventure mystery.

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The Walking Dead Season Finale Review

Posted on December 23, 2010 by

Before I go off on how wonderful I thought the season finale of AMC’s The Walking Dead was, how the series has changed television, how it may or may not be one of the most relevant social commentaries of the 21st century in media right now, I want to thank all of you who have read and shared these reviews. You make typing these little posts something to look forward to.

Now that, that is out of the way, let’s begin.

So, here we are, we’ve come to the end, that was it, for now. I hope you paid attention. because if you didn’t then this is going to be a little confusing. I want to talk about the “reality” that is portrayed in the series, especially in the the season finale. It’s a sticky subject, reality that is, as everyone produces to a certain extent their own version of it. Not in the way that they can interact with the physical world on a scientific level, you couldn’t interpret the laws of physics in your own way. Say with a suspension in the belief of Gravity, and live to tell about it. No matter how many happy thoughts you think, you’re going to plummet off the top of a building if you jump, you simply can not get around that reality.

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Billzilla

Amortals Novel Review

Posted on December 15, 2010 by

What would you do if you found out you had been killed? Further, what if the new you had to track down the old you’s killer?

This is the odd dilemma facing Ronan Dooley, Secret Service Agent and Amortal. The Amortals Project is a program that keeps people alive long past their normal lifespan, and is a sort of insurance policy against anything lethal happening to the rich and powerful. Ronan has been granted Amortal status because of his usefulness in protecting other Amortals – including the President of the United States. So when Dooley ends up murdered, his first assignment – once his new body is up and running – is to track down the ones responsible; they may pose a threat to other Amortals, and besides, killing Dooley in such a high profile manner – broadcasting his death scene – gives the Project a black eye and unwanted bad publicity.

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Zombie Week: Walking Dead Episode 5 Review

Posted on December 11, 2010 by

After the other reviews, I don’t really have much to say concerning this episode of AMC’s, The Walking Dead. In fact, I don’t know how much more I can say, which brings me at a place that I never thought I could really be. A place where zombies, walkers, shamblers, runners, etc, etc have sufficiently taken their toll on my psyche.

I know, I know-you’re thinking, “Surely Eric, you jest.”

I can assure you that I don’t, and to prove my point, well, OK, not so much to prove my point but more to keep these posts going, I will explain why. Also I may have signed a contract while drugged, you never know about such things, as they are (contracts and random druggings) arcane in nature.

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Flames

The Crown of the Blood Review

Posted on December 1, 2010 by

Ullsaard has conquered the known world. All have fallen before his armies.

Now it is time to take the long journey home, back to the revered heart of the great Empire he had helped create for his distant masters. But when he returns to the capital, life there is so very different from what he had believed. Could it be that everything he has fought for, has conquered and killed for, has been a lie?

I’ve long been a reader of Gav’s work and consider the novels he has written for Black Library Publishing to be among the best works they have put out to date. I was excited to see that Gav had stepped out of the Games Workshop intellectual property to create something all his own. The folks at Angry Robot were nice enough to send me a copy of The Crown of the Blood several weeks ago and I happily stuck in.

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Billzilla

Invite Only (Vampire) RPG Review

Posted on November 29, 2010 by

White Wolf Publishing seems to have covered everything possible for Vampire the Requiem; it helps they had a previous edition of the RPG – Vampire the Masquerade – to hash out what players though was useful and what they didn’t want. Along comes a small tidbit like Invite Only, and I for one am left wondering “Why didn’t anyone think of this sooner?”

Written by David A. Hill Jr. and Chuck Wendig, Invite Only is a guide to parties — more specifically, parties hosted or attended by the Kindred. Besides giving the less combat-oriented Kindred something interesting to do, parties are also the focus of a lot of deals and surprises in the V:tR world. A Kindred who pays attention could learn a lot at a party – if she survives long enough to make use of this knowledge.

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Monica Valentinelli

The Disappearance Novel Review

Posted on November 17, 2010 by

Having read some of Bentley Little’s work before (MY FATHER’S SON), I was really interested in picking up THE DISAPPEARANCE to see what twists and turns were in store for me.

The story takes place in our modern-day world, and infuses our worst fears into what should be a very fun weekend. A group of college students from UCLA travel to the world-renowned Burning Man festival, and experience a bizarre turn of events: they wake up from a drug-induced state to find that Gary’s girlfriend Joan has disappeared. Worse, when they contact the police, they don’t believe that she has ever existed because her digital identity has been wiped cleaned.

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alanajoli

Red Hood’s Revenge Review

Posted on November 11, 2010 by

Jim Hines has a way of twisting fairy tales to let him get at bigger issues that lurk behind those stories. One of the biggest ideas he decided to take on is the traditional tale of Sleeping Beauty. One of the early versions of the tale says the the princess was not woken with a kiss, but either with intercourse or the pain of childbirth. If you follow Jim’s online writing at all, you know he’s worked very closely with rape survivors, and that talking about rape is important to him. It’s no surprise that he handles the issue with sophistication and a delicacy, which becomes even more relevant in Red Hood’s Revenge , a story that takes Talia back to her homeland to face her demons. The Lady of the Red Hood, also known as Roudette, is the most deadly assassin in the world, and she’s come after Talia. Her motives are unclear, especially when circumstances lead her to team up with the princess trio, but her hatred for fairies is obvious. When Talia wants to take out Zestan, a fairy the heroes suspect of being a deev — a very powerful evil fairy — Roudette gives every appearance of going along willingly, and only a shift in narrative technique allows readers to see that she’s up to something. (In the previous books, Jim stuck to a more limited third-person narrator; in Red Hood’s Revenge, the narration is broader, allowing peeks into several of the character’s perspectives.)

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Megan

Fiasco RPG Review

Posted on October 15, 2010 by

The underlying concept to this game seems simple: you set up a situation in which things will go wrong, disastrously so, and then play it out as a collaborative story-telling game, taking the part of the main protagonists. That’s straightforward enough, but bolted on is a complex resolution mechanic that jolts you out of storytelling mode to administer – while giving structure to what could otherwise dissolve into chaos around the game-table (as opposed to in the situation you’re playing, where you WANT chaos!) it detracts from the interactive no-holds-barred narrative flow of the game.

Designed for 3-5 players (no GM required) and to take about three hours to play out, even the design process is very structured. Called The Setup, you start by determining when and where the game will take place, and then insert relationships and details to engineer your situation. But it’s not done by purely throwing out ideas until your mix feels explosive enough to begin, but through a system called a Playset. As a scenario-design system, it’s quite a beautiful mix of creativity and randomization. Each Playset comes with lists, you see, and once you have chosen a published one or made up your own, you roll a whole bunch of dice and take turns to choose items from the lists, each time using a die that’s rolled the appropriate number.

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The Affinity Bridge Review

Posted on October 14, 2010 by

So, here we are readers, another late night at the old computer, another review, but this time it is a slightly different affair. Upon completion of George Mann’s “The Affinity Bridge” published by Tor, I happened upon a realization, OK, well not really a realization, more of a revelation, and not one in the biblical sense mind you, more of a traditional something that I hadn’t seen before until I opened my eyes sort of thing. Confused? Well, it seems as if you aren’t the only ones, because I am as well. So here we go with the admission stage of feeling guilty.

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Billzilla

The Best Of All Flesh Anthology Review

Posted on October 12, 2010 by

Let’s get this out of the way first thing; zombies scare me. The mindless violence and relentless, insatiable hunger and lack of pain response of the George Romero-style walking dead creep me the heck out. So when Jim Lowder handed me a copy of The Best of All Flesh at GenCon to review for Flames Rising, I admit I approached it with some trepidation.

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