Friday, 31 October 2008

An observation on publishing for children and teenagers...

So, I wandered into my local big chain book store on Wednesday to have a look at the children and teenage fiction sections. Now, I haven't read a children's or teenager's novel since last year and the Deathly Hallows. In fact I haven't had a look at either section in years.

I was completely surprised by the amount of novels dealing with fantasy genre elements, and vampires and werewolves. There was a severe lack of novels set anywhere near the real world, except for the likes of Jacqueline Wilson in the kid's section (I never got on with her novels as a kid), and then the odd other novels set in the real world, for teenagers, such as the winner of Waterstone's 2008 Children's Book Prize: Sally Nicholls's Ways to Live Forever, and novels by Malorie Blackman, and Melvin Burgess.

Fallout (not the game, mind)
I suspect the fallout from Rowling's Harry Potter series, Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, and the bewitching Charmed, will continue to dictate publishing for children and teenagers for some years to come. Oh well.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Dead Space

Average weekend
So, I've had a busy weekend. Got all my work done for the MA, went to the cinema and completed this game. Beware spoilers.

This is one of the scariest games I've ever played, and I'll admit that one of the reasons that I wanted to buy it was because of its use of third person, over the shoulder, perspective, which I liked in Resident Evil 4. Yes this is an action-adventure shooting game, but it has a cinematic quality that's greater a lot of other first person shooters.

Your character is sent on a retrieval mission with a small crew, to a huge ship that had been servicing an abandoned colony. As soon as you enter the ship your crew and you know something is not quite right and it goes to hell from there.

After been blown away by Bioshock on the Xbox 360, I had been looking around for another game to play that had a story full of twists and surprises. I had been waiting for Dead Space to come out for quite some time.

It didn't last as long as I hoped it would, but like with a lot of shooters the designers expect multiple plays to extend the life of the game. Me, I'm more of a story person so replaying this on harder difficulties doesn't really do anything for me.

In the end
If you've enjoyed games like RE4 and Bioshock and films such as Alien, Aliens and The Thing, you'll probably have a blast playing through this. Just remember to dismember and you'll have an easier time of it.

Related link
Portal to UK Dead Space website

Burn After Reading

The veteran

As a Coen Brothers veteran, I felt compelled to go and see their latest piece of mini-plot madness. So please beware of spoilers, as I take you through one of the better comedies of this year.

The numerous plots of this film resonate out from Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) quitting the CIA and his decision to write his memoirs of being in the service. During the course of the film the audience is treated to seeing several affairs blow up, a black mail go sour and a woman's obsession with plastic surgery.

Typical Coen Brothers
Burn After Reading
follows the same sort of madness that has been exploited in other Coen brother's films, but their imagings of American society and culture are always a joy to watch. Things do get confusing in this latest offering and at times I felt the audience slipping, but fans of their older films would do well to watch this.

Related links
Offical Burn After Reading web site
Joel Coen profile on IMDB
Ethan coen profile on IMDB

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Recent graphic novels

Several of the most awesome things I've recently finished reading, are Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. Both of these were created and originally published in the 1980s and helped spark a revival in the popularity of comics and graphic novels in the West.

If you think comics and graphic novels are for kids, then I dare you to read this. Apart from the fact that you'd be very much mistaken if you believed it was all for kids, the characterisation for The Joker in the recent film The Dark Knight is based off of Miller's Joker in this novel (and Alan Moore's Joker in The Killing Joke (also a must read)).

Batman: The Dark Knight shows us just what happens after Batman retires from crime fighting and how it doesn't really work out.
Some of it's a bit dated, but it is over 20 years old. Supposedly Miller's yarn was responsible for reviving the Batman franchise.

most celebrated graphic novel of all time"
In anticipation of the movie adaptation of this that's being released next year, I found myself reading Watchmen last month. I've never read a graphic novel with plot that was not easy to guess. When I finally realised where the story was going I got goose bumps.

What was so fantastic about this graphic novel is that it's not really about superheroes; it's about vigilantes (all of the characters, except for one, do not have powers) and how the world reacts to them. Alan Moore is a really good storyteller and it's no surprise that the work he's done with Dave Gibbons over the years represents some of the best of English comics ever created.

Oh, I saw the trailer for Watchmen, when I went to see The Dark Knight, and that's when I realised that I needed to read the graphic novel.

Related links
DC Comics
Official Watchmen movie website
WATCHMEN - trailer version 1, with some guy at the end almost peeing himself