Friday, 22 January 2016

Review - In Vaulted Halls Entombed by Alan Baxter

You ever read a story that leaves you a little shaken? 

A story that prompts your mind to wander into the deepest and darkest questions of our existence? 

Well after reading Alan Baxter's "In Vaulted Halls Entombed" (published in the awesome anthology SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest) I found myself pondering the terrifying possibilities of beings so far beyond my comprehension slumbering here on earth that it kinda freaked me out a little.

For weeks afterwards.

Yes... weeks. 

With In Vaulted Halls Entombed Baxter has produced the kind of story that resonates and crawls into the deepest and darkest recesses of your mind and simply refuses to budge. It has everything. Military action, unimaginable horrors crawling in the shadows, and an overriding sense of doom and dread that is layered within an environment that just feels wrong (in a good way). And as the soldiers drop one by one, and that overriding sense of hopelessness and fear sets in, you realise you are reading something masterful and brilliant in its purpose. 

Cosmic horror is meant to make you uncomfortable (again, in a good way) and to challenge the base upon which you shape your existence. As you read it you are meant to be on edge and feel like a wounded animal that is being stalked by an apex predator in the shadows. You can't see threat, but deep down you know it's there. 

In Vaulted Halls Entombed does this in magnificent fashion. It makes you uncomfortable. It makes your skin cold and clammy, and your heartbeat irregular. And as you read it your adrenal system works overtime keeping your body flooded and ready for that fight or flight moment that you just know is coming. Combine all of this with cracking moments of military action you have an absolute winner of a story. It is simply stunning in its direction and execution. I adored it, and was left wanting more despite the fact that my balls had crawled up into my abdomen in fear by the end (please tell me there will be more Alan... please...)  

Even now, weeks later (as I write this short review), I get cold chills thinking about what those soldiers found down in that deep dark hole. It was just... not right. 

Baxter has taken what Lovecraft started and made it better. Military horror at its absolute finest.  

5 out 5 stars. 

In Vaulted Halls Entombed can be found within SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest (Cohesion Press). I highly recommend that you purchase it as soon as possible, as it is filled with so much other military horror goodness as well as Alan's story.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Holy Crap... AMAZING NEWS!

I'm famous... well... sort of! 

A couple of days back I got a message from Alan Baxter stating that Ragnarok Publishing were considering using one of my quotes to grace the US cover of Alan's book Bound. Now before I could leap up and down and scream hysterically in happiness Alan warned me that nothing was set in stone in publishing, and to wait and see. 

So I waited, and then the big news came. My quote was on the cover!!!

Here it is, in all of it's wonderful glory. 

Amazing, isn't it? Ragnarok have done a brilliant job bringing to life the urban grittiness and magic of Bound, and I am extremely humbled and stoked to feature on the cover of one of my favourite books ever. You can read more about it here, or find out more about Alan and his work (it's fucking balls to the wall fantastic stuff!) here. Do yourselves a favour, as soon as the release details become available pre-order this book. You won't be disappointed.

Review - Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I've been waiting for this film for a long time. 

A very long time in fact. 

I want to be honest from the outset before I leap into my review. I don't like the prequel films. Apart from a brief section during the latter stages of Revenge of the Sith they are basically unwatchable in my honest opinion. Sorry George, but they are shit. 

This brings me to The Force Awakens. Prior to watching the movie I had done my utmost to avoid any spoilers or online discussion about it (made much more difficult by the fact that I didn't see the movie until Boxing Day). I wanted to go into the movie relatively blind, and enjoy it for what it was. And damn, I wasn't disappointed. 

I loved it. I loved it so much that if I didn't have to go and pick my daughter up from a babysitter afterwards I would have immediately bought another ticket and gone back in to watch it all over again. It was everything I wanted in a movie. Swashbuckling adventure, brilliantly executed action, and great characters who genuinely gave me all the feels I wanted along with a large bout of nostalgia that had me mentally soaring for days afterwards. 

In fact there were so many things that blew my mind it's hard to compact them all into one single review. But here are the highlights for me:

Rey and Finn... they are AMAZING. I cannot emphasise this enough. Rey brings a brilliant sensitivity and vulnerability to the story, and Finn a cracking sense of wit and fun. Their relationship sets the bar high and is the beating heart of The Force Awakens. And damn it was awesome to finally see a female and black man headline a movie. Welcome to the modern world Disney... now don't fuck it up. 

The Finalizer... Star Destroyer on steroids (Resurgent-class for you fellow nerds)... oh my... I got chills seeing this baby in all of it's glory. As someone who plays Star Wars: Armada I have a bit of a fetish for all things spaceship... and it was awesome to get more of an insight into the layout and function of this massive war machine in the movie. 

Han, Chewie, Leia and Luke (well Luke is in it for what... 30 seconds)... like every fan of the franchise I got a huge thrill seeing my old favourites grace the screen yet again. Han was scathingly funny and full of great lines, Chewie loomed and provided awesome scenes with his bowcaster, and it was wonderful to see an aged and weary Leia leading the remnants of the Resistance against the First Order. 

Kylo Ren... I know there has been a lot of criticism but to be honest 99% of it is shit (The Emo Kylo Ren account is hilarious though I must admit). Ren is a psychopath... powerful yet incredibly unhinged mentally. His emotional bursts of anger and outrage were great to see, and seeing him struggle to control and direct his power felt a little more natural to me. The scene where he punches his massive gut wound (after being hit by Chewbacca's bowcaster) to increase his rage was just freaking awesome.. and I love the design and story behind his lightsaber. A great new villain in my opinion. 

The battles, oh the battles... from X-Wing's charging across a lake to attack the First Order to lightsaber duels in a snowy forest... The Force Awakens has it all. I adored these scenes, and the little nods they made to the original trilogy (Finn shooting down TIE's using the Falcon's turrets for example) were great.

I could go on and on about what I loved, but alas I'd be typing for days. There were some things that could have been improved on (people have been annoyed by the similarities to A New Hope for example, or the lack of Luke until literally the last 30 seconds), but overall The Force Awakens is a brilliant next instalment in the franchise. I for one cannot wait to see what direction they take with the next movie. Go and see The Force Awakens, you won't be disappointed. 

4.5 out of 5 Stars. 

Friday, 8 January 2016

Welcome to 2016

Hey Everyone!

Well I hope you all have had a merry holiday period filled with lots of laughs and good times... I know I did! 

Now that I have finally seen off the last of my relatives who came to stay with us over Christmas period I can sit down and start blogging and reviewing again without interruption (or merry intoxication, take your pick). And damn 2016 is shaping up to be an absolutely amazing looking year for speculative fiction. So what can you all expect from Smash Dragons this year?

More of everything pretty much. 

More reviews. More interviews. And more opinion pieces. Late January and February are absolutely loaded with awesomeness already, and I can't wait to reveal the big thing that is happening with the blog around April. Stay tuned for that one!

What I can announce is that the always awesome Mitchell Hogan will be dropping by for a chat in late January, and newcomer Peter Tieryas will also grace our fair site to chat about his FREAKIN AMAZING debut United States of Japan. I've read it already, and damn it's brilliant. And look at that cover!!

I will have reviews for Mitchell Hogan's Blood of Innocents and Brandon Sanderson's Emperor of Souls out next week, along with my film review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Spoiler alert... I loved it... despite some it's flaws. 

And that's just the tip of the iceberg for January and February. We have new releases from Sanderson,  Lawrence, Staveley, and others coming up. And damn there are some cool looking novel debuts from authors such as Yoon Ha Lee (Ninefox Gambit) Clifford Beal (The Guns of Ivrea). I will be hunting them all down to read and review on here, you can be sure of that! 

So keep dropping by and sending me your emails and messages. And keep following me on Goodreads and Twitter for more updates and links. I love to hear from you all. Stay tuned for my posts in a couple of days, and remember...


Much love,