fantasy

Review – “Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples” (Illustrated by Colleen Doran)

918fkn2oh0lWe all know how much I love a good Neil Gaiman story. He’s one of my favorite authors currently writing and I’ve yet to encounter one of his stories that I haven’t enjoyed in some way or another. Some of my favorite Gaiman things are the comic adaptations of his prose work. I always find it really intriguing seeing how comic artists adapt the work of Gaiman (an author who got, perhaps, one of his earliest and biggest breaks within the world of comics) into this more visual medium. This is where Snow, Glass, Apples comes into play. It’s the latest in a fairly-lengthy line of comic adaptations of Gaiman’s work to be published by Dark Horse Comics; ignoring their ongoing American Gods adaptation, it’s the second such graphic novel adapting some of Gaiman’s short stories. What intrigued me the most about this adaptation were the excerpts that featured some of Collen Doran’s illustrations. Her style promised a really interesting, unique, and gorgeous take on the original short story and I was very excited to give it a read. How did it turn out? Just as good as I’d hoped it would be, if not better!

Snow, Glass, Apples (written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Colleen Doran)
A not-so-evil queen is terrified of her monstrous stepdaughter and determined to repel this creature and save her kingdom from a world where happy endings aren’t so happily ever after.

From the Hugo, Bram Stoker, Locus, World Fantasy, Nebula award-winning, and New York Times bestselling writer Neil Gaiman (American Gods) comes this graphic novel adaptation by Colleen Doran (Troll Bridge)!

The short story this comic is based on is, perhaps, one of Gaiman’s best-known shorts. A retelling of the Snow White fairy tale from the point of view of the Step-Mother. What if Snow White were some kind of vampire-esque monster and the “Evil Queen” was only trying to save her kingdom from this threat? This is the question at the heart of the short story, itself a haunting and suspenseful tale that, as you’d expect, ends in tragedy. It’s a really solid short story, originally collected in Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors collection. I’m a sucker for a good twist on an old fairy tale and this one proves to be more than just “what if the villain was misunderstood”, pivoting hard into more of a “what if the ‘hero’ was actually the monster?” and I really dig that. Gaiman handles the subject with care, walking a fine line between sympathy for all the characters and depicting monstrous things with a monstrous touch. It’s a really solid, entertaining, haunting, and spooky story and it’s one of my favorites of Gaiman’s short fiction.

What makes this particular adaptation unique, though, are the illustrations from Colleen Doran. Doran’s art style throughout this comic adaptation is more reminiscent of religious stained glass artwork than that found in a traditional graphic novel. This stylistic choice really works well for the material, though, as it gives the whole story an elevated visual identity. Doran’s artwork is beautiful and she manages to maintain a superb balance between the beauty of the images and the practicality needed from them to usher the actual story of the graphic novel along. Each of her images, while being gorgeous works of art, exist to serve the story being told. They’re beautifully detailed but never too indulgent. It’s a perfect balance between beauty and practicality.

All in all, this is a must-read for Gaiman fans. It’s a short read – clocking in at around 60 pages – but it’s a beautiful new take on a Gaiman classic that will delight you, frighten you, and make you want to read it again and again. The story is haunting and well-executed, Doran’s artwork is beautiful and perfectly matches the tone of the story, and the whole affair just serves as a wonderful retelling of a great short story. It’s perfect for the spooky season, too, so give it a read.

Five out of five wands

REVIEW: “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman

ocean at the end of the lane bookI first read The Ocean at the End of the Lane around the time it was originally published in 2013. It was the first novel from Neil Gaiman I’d ever read; I’d seen his Doctor Who work, watched Neverwhere, and read some issues of The Sandman by this point but I had never read one of his novels in their entirety. Talk about a hell of a way to get into Gaiman’s work. At the time, I was just approaching adulthood, so this novel’s tale of a middle-aged man going through a deeply nostalgic trip down memory lane really hit me hard as it evoked feelings of long-lost childhood and the story itself proved to be far scarier than anything I’d read from Gaiman before – or, frankly, since. Now, since a stage adaptation of the novel has recently been announced by the National Theatre in the UK (it hits the stage in December of this year and I desperately hope National Theatre Live broadcasts it), it felt like the perfect time to revisit this book. It’s been six years since I last read it and I reread books so infrequently that it’ll almost be like experiencing this story for the first time all over again. And how is it returning to this story, you might ask? Wonderful. I truly adore this novel.  (NOTE: this review may feature spoilers related to the plot of the story.)

A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse where she once lived, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

A groundbreaking work as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out.

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REVIEW: “Neverwhere” – The Illustrated Edition, by Neil Gaiman (will illustrations by Chris Riddell)

neverwhereI tried to read Neverwhere, the first solo novel from Neil Gaiman, years ago but I had shortly beforehand watched the original TV version of the story, so I had a lot of trouble getting into the novel as it skewed so closely to what I’d so recently watched. Years passed and I’d read a number of Gaiman’s other novels – Stardust, American Gods, Anansi Boys, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and more – while never returning to his first to really give it a fair shot. Now,  in the wake of the success of Gaiman’s adaptation of his and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens, I thought I’d return to a few favorites of Gaiman’s work while finally giving Neverwhere a real chance. Enough time has passed that I don’t really remember a whole lot of the TV show, so it was really the perfect time to give the book I read. I went to my local bookstore and found a new version of the book – Gaiman’s preferred text, now illustrated by Chris Riddell, one of Gaiman’s frequent collaborators. With this new copy of the book and a copy of the audiobook – narrated by Gaiman, himself – it was time to finally read Neverwhere. Now, having finished the book, I can honestly say that I’m really mad at myself for how long it took me to read this book because it’s really that damn good. (NOTE: This review will discuss elements of the story itself, Riddell’s illustrations, and Gaiman’s audiobook. Also, mild spoilers for a 23-year-old novel follow.) 

Neverwhere (written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell)
Richard Mayhew is a young London businessman with a good heart whose life is changed forever when he stops to help a bleeding girl—an act of kindness that plunges him into a world he never dreamed existed. Slipping through the cracks of reality, Richard lands in Neverwhere—a London of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels that exists entirely in a subterranean labyrinth. Neverwhere is home to Door, the mysterious girl Richard helped in the London Above. Here in Neverwhere, Door is a powerful noblewoman who has vowed to find the evil agent of her family’s slaughter and thwart the destruction of this strange underworld kingdom. If Richard is ever to return to his former life and home, he must join Lady Door’s quest to save her world—and may well die trying.

Published in 1997, Neil Gaiman’s first novel, Neverwhere, heralded the arrival of a major talent. Over the years, various versions have been produced around the world. In 2016, this gorgeously illustrated edition of the novel was released in the UK. It is now available here, and features strikingly atmospheric, painstakingly detailed black-and-white line art by Chris Riddell, one of Gaiman’s favorite artistic interpreters of his work.

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REVIEW: “Good Omens” (2019 TV Series)

good omens posterI love Neil Gaiman’s books. Obviously. I talk about them all the time. I write religiously about the American Gods TV series. One of the first Gaiman novels I ever read was his collaboration with Terry Pratchett (of Discworld fame), Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. It was one of those books that felt akin to Douglas Adams’ novels and it was a book that I really loved. Naturally, I’d heard rumors of it being turned into a film for years, though nothing ever seemed to come of it until Amazon Prime and BBC announced they were co-producing a six-episode adaptation, written and executive produced by Gaiman, himself. I’m a big fan of authors getting to adapt their own stories for various mediums – though, often, many authors don’t do such a great job with those adaptations as they don’t understand the constraints of whichever medium the story is being adapted for. Gaiman, however, has plenty of experience writing for film, TV, comics, and prose, so if any author could successfully translate their novel into a visual medium, it would be Neil Gaiman. Thankfully, that’s exactly what he did with this adaptation, too. These six episodes of Good Omens are so delightfully accurate to the novel, so immensely entertaining, and so well put together that it is just so joyous to watch. This is one of those shows that I might revisit yearly just for the hell of it. (Mild spoilers for both the novel and the show ahead!)

Good Omens (written by Neil Gaiman, directed by Douglas Mackinnon)
Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and Crowley (David Tennant), of Heaven and Hell respectively, have grown rather fond of the Earth. So it’s terrible news that it’s about to end. The armies of Good and Evil are amassing. The Four Horsemen are ready to ride. Everything is going according to the Divine Plan…except that someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist. Can our heroes find him and stop Armageddon before it’s too late?

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REVIEW: “The Journals of Incabad Reyl” by Gregory Tasoulas

71j8qiuwuplI’m really picky about the kinds of science fiction and fantasy books I like. I like stories that have a well-defined world while also not requiring an encyclopedia to understand that world. I like stories with well-defined characters who help guide the reader through this other world. So, when Gregory Tasoulas reached out to offer a review copy of his book The Journals of Incabad Reyl for me to review, I thought I’d give it a shot. It seemed right up my alley and, on the whole, I’m not disappointed. It’s not really the kind of sci-fi/fantasy story I’d read, but it did end up being pretty good.

In a different Universe where electricity is the defining driving force of all natural existence, and life exists on floating islands called troves, Incabad Reyl is the greatest scientist of his time. It was his research on the 12 electrons that gave the Equation of fractal dynamics, the Equation that became the basis of Horizon’s modern technology. The Equation that brought about a better understanding of the echomagnetic fields of the 12 permanent Storms and ushered Horizon into an era of technological advancement based on its abundant electrical forces.

But his Equation was flawed and incomplete…

And so, decades after his famous research that put him on a pedestal as Horizon’s greatest scientific mind, Professor Reyl embarks on a clandestine adventure to find what he calls the Master Equation. An equation that will define the elusive variables of the Horizon’s volatile and ever-changing echomagnetic fields. Or so everybody thinks.

His only ally a cryptic Oracle from the trove Ocheron, Lieutenant Auburn Thorn.

Together, the two men leave the trove Accadia, one of the ten Cradles of human civilization and travel to the distant and unexplored trove Tarn, where they venture deep into the uncharted jungle. With the help of Auburn’s oracular abilities, they discover an ancient technomagical building of unknown origins.

While the superficial harmony between the ten Cradles of humanity unravels around them, the two will have to face unforeseen adversities and betrayals, in a race to save humanity’s future.

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A Spoiler-Free Preview of Season 2 of “American Gods”

key artSeason two of American Gods has had a pretty tough time getting to our screens. Originally renewed shortly after the first season began airing, season two suffered numerous production woes – first, the loss of its original two showrunners, Michael Green and Bryan Fuller; then the hiring and subsequent (reported) sacking of new showrunner Jesse Alexander; and, finally, countless delays to the show actually arriving on our screens. For a while, it seemed as though American Gods would never return to TV again or, if it did, it would return in a state that was dramatically less spectacular than its original season was. Well, thankfully, season two of American Gods officially premieres on STARZ this Sunday, March 10. STARZ has provided critics with the first two episodes of the season – and I have seen them – and I am happy to report that the show has, indeed, returned – and it’s returned without a significant drop in quality! (This review will be as spoiler-free as possible. Full, spoiler-filled reviews of each episode will be available on the Sundays that they air.) 

Starring Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon and Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday, “American Gods” is a one-hour drama adapted from Neil Gaiman’s best-selling novel about a war brewing between Old Gods and New Gods: the traditional gods of mythological roots from around the world steadily losing believers to an upstart pantheon of gods reflecting society’s modern love of money, technology, media, celebrity and drugs. We were forged in God’s image, but the Gods are also made in ours — and in Season Two the battle moves inexorably toward crisis point as the destinies of gods and men collide. While Mr. World (Crispin Glover) plots revenge for the attack against him in Season One, Shadow throws in his lot with Wednesday’s attempt to convince the Old Gods of the case for full-out war, with Laura (Emily Browning) and Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) in tow. A council at the House on the Rock explodes into chaos, sending deities both Old and New on quests across America that will converge on Cairo, Illinois: forcing Shadow to carve out a place as a believer in this strange new world of living gods — a dark world where change demands commitment, and faith requires terrible sacrifice.

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REVIEW: “Mythicals” by Dennis Meredith

MythicalsI love a good sci-fi book, that much is well known. But what about a sci-fi book that puts forth the idea that all the mythological creatures from Earth’s history (fairies, pixies, werewolves, vampires, etc) are actually alien species exiled to our planet as punishment for crimes made on their own planets? Well, a book like that would be right up my wheelhouse. That’s exactly the kind of book that Dennis Meredith’s Mythicals is. It’s also a very good one, too.

Drunken journalist Jack March can’t believe his bleary eyes when he stumbles onto a winged fairy! She vaults away into the night sky, and his unbelievable—and unbelieved—encounter leads to a stunning revelation that all the creatures of myth and legend are real!
Fairies, pixies, trolls, werewolves, ogres, vampires, angels, elves, bigfoot—all are alien exiles to the planet. For their crimes, these “mythicals” are serving out banishment disguised in flesh-suits enabling them to live among the planet’s natives.
Jack reveals their secret to the world, along with a horrendous discovery: they have decided that the native “terminal species” must be eradicated before it ruins its home planet’s ecology.
In this riveting scifi/fairy tale, Jack joins with sympathetic fairies, pixies, and ogres to attempt to save the planet from the mythicals, as well as the mysterious alien cabal known as the Pilgrims.

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REVIEW: FOX’s Ghosted, S01E01 – Pilot

ghosted-1x01-16You know how there always ends up being that one show that has a premise that you’re super into and a trailer that really gets you pumped and it ends up being disappointing as all get out? Yeah, Ghosted was that show for me. Created by Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten, Ghosted is basically what you’d get if you made The X-Files into a sitcom, executed it as a buddy-cop story, and had it star two men. In the pilot episode of Ghosted, a key member of The Bureau Underground – a top-secret government agency – goes missing. Subsequently, Leroy (Craig Robinson), a cynical former detective, and Max (Adam Scott), a genius “true believer” in the paranormal, are recruited to find him. The two polar opposites must work together to find the agent while uncovering possible alien activity and chilling “unexplained” paranormal events in their own city of Los Angeles. (Mild spoilers follow)  (more…)

Luck of the Irish (American Gods S01E07 “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney” review)

2560x14401Well, we were bound to encounter a less than stellar episode eventually, and A Prayer for Mad Sweeney is that episode. It’s certainly not bad; in fact, it’s very enjoyable and if it were placed anywhere else besides as the penultimate episode of the season, it would raise from less-than-stellar to good. The problem is that this episode is essentially one long detour from the main plotline right before the season finale. It’s a great story that’s well told, but placing the episode this close to the finale was a mistake. Written by Maria Melnik (and Michael Green and Bryan Fuller) and directed by Adam Kane, A Prayer for Mad Sweeney tells the story of how Mad Sweeney came to America. After her reunion with Shadow (Ricky Whittle) ends far too quickly, Laura (Emily Browning) turns to an unlikely travel companion to find her way back to life, and back to Shadow. Mad Sweeney’s (Pablo Schreiber) long, winding, and often tragic past is explored. (As always, this episode will feature spoilers. You have been warned.)  (more…)

God Save the Queen (Doctor Who S10E09 “Empress of Mars” review)

Doctor Who S10 Ep9 The Empress of MarsWhat happens when a new NASA probe discovers a curious message on the surface of Mars? Well, naturally the Doctor and Bill have to go investigate it, which is exactly what happens in Empress of Mars. Written by Mark Gatiss and directed by Wayne Yip, Empress of Mars follows the Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Bill (Pearl Mackie), and Nardole (Matt Lucas) as they explore Mars after finding “God Save the Queen” written on the surface of the planet. What they discover is rather unexpected: there are Victorian soldiers on Mars. How is this possible? Unwittingly, they awaken Iraxxa, the Ice Queen (Adele Lynch), from her five millennia slumber, leading to an ultimate showdown between two of the most stubborn races ever: Victorian soldiers vs. the Ice Warriors. (As always, this review will contain spoilers. You’ve been warned!) (more…)