Caesar's Colosseum

The great Colosseum was a place of epic gladatorial combats. Those whom became victorious were awarded only with the prize of life. Caesar's Colosseum is a celebration of great victories, whether it be throughout history or literature. Darwin proclaimed survival of the fittest. In the Colosseum, there is only survival. Let the games begin!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Stephen King UK Booklaunch














I apologise for the poor quality of these photos. They were taken rather badly on a mobile. The shadow to Stephen King's right in photo 2 is in fact me, whilst photo 1 shows him getting involved with the band.

I have to say I'm pretty proud to have been able to go to an exclusive book launch party for the new Stephen King book, Lisey's Story. This was a significant event largely because its been 8 years since his last UK tour and it's uncertain whether such an opportunity would ever come up again.
It was quite a short evening largely because King wasn't feeling particularly well that night, but he made a supreme effort to get round and chat to everyone who attended and even had time for a quick speech and song on the stage. With so many people wanting to meet him, getting near him to congratulate him was always going to be tough and I was with a group of colleagues who desperately wanted to say hi and thankyou for the enjoyment he brought them. After tailing him around the room for most of the evening, I was given a tip off that he was about to leave. A plan formed and I herded the group to the only exit out of the hall..
I think he recognised me from pretty much following him around, but he was great about it and even let us take a few photos alongside him. I got to meet one of the biggest names in modern literature and my friends got to to shake hands with their idol. A successful evening and the most fun I've ever had at a book launch.

I also got to the opportunity to mention to Stephen that I was enjoying reading his son's debut novel, Heart Shaped Box. As mentioned in an earlier post, it's a supernatural thriller which is going to be huge when it hits the shelves in March. While his father is more of a traditional horror novelist, this takes a very 21st century approach to hauntings (buying a ghost over the internet) and yet still retains the same kind of chills and tension horror lovers have gorged on over the years.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Christmas Crackers















It's been another month of buying and receiving books - all of which have been added to my personal library at http://www.librarything.com/catalog/diehardkev. I have also recently had the opportunity to interview SF and Young Adult Fantasy author Scott Westerfeld on life, the Universe and Everything - a copy of which will I hope to post on here in due course. It also gave myself the excuse to finally elevate his books to the top of my reading pile and boy was I glad I did. First up was Midnighters: Secret Hour. This is the first part in a trilogy aimed at the teenage fiction market, where the world actually has 25 hours. The 25th hour is known only to a few special individuals and exists outside of the normal laws of time (in other words, time stops for everyone else in this hour). Each of the gifted "Midnighters" have unique abilities which allow them to survive against the Darklings - an ancient race of creatures which can only survive in The Midnight. When Jessica Day discovers she is a Midnighter, her abilities are initially a mystery, but somehow she stirs up the Darklings into a raging frenzy, leaving the Midnighters in a race to protect Jessica and discover her power before the Darkling s can stop her.
I'm a great believer in that childrens fiction should concentrate on storytelling and not bombarding them with morals and principles - after all fantasy should be regarded as escapsim from the harsh realities of life. Westerfeld is a natural storyteller and keeps the story tense and primly paced. There are some touching scenes between Jessica and the Midnighter she falls for and some focus on the triviliaties teenagers often have to face, but they don't detract from what is essentially a really enjoyable young superhero story.

From fantasy to Sci fi in what is one of the finest space operas I have come across in recent years. In fact to label Risen Empire as a space opera almost does it an injustice - the breadth of issues and technologies puts many a hard SF novel to shame. The Risen Empire is ruled by the Risen Emperor who has achieved immortality for himself and an elite few through symbiosis with an alien organism. Ruling over the Empire, peace has spread across the galaxy until a cult known as the Rix invade the heart of the Empire and galactic war breaks out. From the first chapter, it's full throttle action as an Imperial Squadron strike back at the Rix. It appears at first to emulate the traditional spaceship enagement popularised in Battlestar Galactica, but Westerfeld instead incorporates microtechnology - the ships are the size of dust grains and are operated by remote from an orbiting mothership! This kind of fresh approach and scale is the norm throughout the book and make it something extra special in my book. There is also a strong political theme. The Empire is ruled by people who never "die" and a renegade political group believe that this can only stifle the growth of humanity and also questions its need to go to war. Looking around the world today, its not hard to see where some of these themes have been reflected from.
This is hard hitting and epic science fiction and although falls slightly short of being directly comparable to Dune, can easily sit proudly alongside it on any SF readers shelf.

Two other books appeared on my desk this week - Somnambulist and Heart Shaped Box. The Somnambulist, apart from being an absolute tongue twister, is a debut literary fantasy comparable to the likes of Mark Gatiss and Christopher Priest. Narrating a stage conjuroring detective, a Dickensian London and a plot to bring the British Empire to its knees, I'm defintely looking forward to this one.

Last and by no means least is Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill, also known as Stephen King junior. Yes the son of horror's most popular writer is making his own debut with a novel which I guarantee to be a winner in 2007. It's a supernatural thriller which has already had the big thumbs up from Neil Gaiman and will undoubtably receive a mammoth marketing campaign. What with Devil You Know (Mike Carey), Already Dead ( Charlie Huston) and Man From the Diogenes Club ( Kim Newman), I have really immersed myself this year in this newly established genre of supernatural investigative thrillers and I have a good feeling that Heart Shaped Box will round off 2006 in style!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The First Law


Today I finally got my hands on a early manuscript for the second book of the First Law by Joe Abercrombie - Before They Are Hanged. Why is this important you might think? Well you obviously haven't read The Blade Itself. The Blade Itself was my top read for 2006 and deservedly so, despite a cracking year of top fantasy debuts in the UK. Having avoided a lot of multi-volumed fantasy recently, I picked up The Blade Itself on a bit of whim - I needed something light for a long train journey. I became so entranced in the book, I nearly missed getting off at Milton Keynes station.
Although it is essentially a fairly traditional fantasy story of quests, warring kingdoms, barbarians, wizards and soldiers, it's the quality of Abercrombie's style that has won me over. It's so easy for an author to get bogged down in setting and overly-descriptive narrative because Tolkien's success set a standard for how future writers and indeed many readers perceive and expect epic fantasy to be (in fact, for a stand alone fantasy novel to appear these days is something of a "dear diary" moment). Abercrombie's style breaks this mould and concentrates instead on thriller style pacing and intelligent character design. It's a brutal book with some horrific torture scenes reminiscent of Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun and the chief torturer, Glokta, has such a literal and even physical presence, I wouldn't be surprised if he develops into the next leading anti-hero character.

I truly believe Abercrombie has the skills to become a sensation in the genre and his debut was no fluke - either way, I will know for sure within the pages that lie before me.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Voyage Across the Multiverse


For quite some time now, I have been toying with the idea of writing my own RPG campaign. Runequest is one of my favourite systems and I currently have a shelf of Cthulhu, Glorantha and Stormbringer RPG books. I have decided to go with Stormbringer as my main sourcebook largely because it favours players being able to use much more powerful characters than say Cthulhu and because Moorcock's Multiverse opens up a world of possibilities for adventures to take place in - everything from the Medieval backdrop of the original Von Bek, through to World Wars and post-apocalyptic fantasy worlds. By using a system that caters for stronger characters, players will be able to select randomly from the many aspects of the Eternal Champion as it's spirit is shattered and fragmented across the multiverse to unite it's greatest doomed warriors in an ultimate quest to solve an ancient mystery that lies at the very heart of the war between Law and Chaos. Each Champion will also have unique characteristics to their character sheets and have their own individual nemesis to hamper their progress throughout their quest.

As I have said, this is something I have been thinking about for a while and I now feel inspired to begin this ambitious project. I am currently reading and re-reading all of Moorcock's backlist and other people's Stormbringer campaigns to give myself enough background material and ideas to bring the story together. It may take a long time, but hopefully the enjoyment my friends will get out of playing it will make it all the worthwhile.

"With me to lead them, we could carve a new empire from this world" - Elric of Melnibone

Friday, August 04, 2006

Austin Powers meets Scooby-doo??

I've picked up on a few decent reviews of this new book from Stateside. I quote from the blurb;

"Introducing Richard Jeperson ... in the 1970's the most valued member of a venerable institution, the Diogenes Club - least publicized of Britain's law enforcement and intelligence agencies. His cases involve haunted trains and seaside resorts, murders in utopian communities and London's vice district, voodoo and mind-altering therapies; his fashionsense is gaudy, hsi enemies deadly, and his associates glamorous."

Sounds like a social commentary on the 1960's! It does look like tremendous fun and Monkeybrain Books are fast making a presence in my personal library, so I will report back on this once I've finished it - hopefully before the new Tim Powers arrives on my desk!

Of the 5 previous books I wrote about, The Ruins has so far been the one that gripped me the tightest around the short and curlies, as I locked myself away for 2 days to solidly plough through it. Trying to find a genuinely thrilling horror novel in this age of vampire chick-lit is not an easy task, and had a colleague not phoned me up to recommend this near terrifying book, then it could easily have slipped under the radar. If you haven't read any Scott Smith yet, do so. Comparisons to Lovecraft are natural, but that feels an unfair comparison, because Smith is superior storyteller and puts a greater emphasis on creating a real, unnerving atmosphere to his setting and allows each of his characters to express their emotions individually. I have come across non-fiction that has felt less real than this. As for the plot, well I wont give anything away. Your terror and imagination will feed off the slow build, so to indicate anything of the actual story will spoil the suspense, although I will say that the squeamish should return to cowering behind ther sofas. This book isn't for them!

That's it for now, so goodnight, oh and.....

sleep tight..


Friday, July 28, 2006

David Gemmell

On of my rare, serious posts, the Colosseum has been informed today of the sudden loss of one of the leading writers of heroic fantasy. David Gemmell passed away this morning aged 57, after a severe heart attack.

full details at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/5224868.stm

RIP

Friday, July 14, 2006

Challenge the Food Eating Battle Monkey!

Cthulhu
is a
Fire-Eating Kung-Fu Monkey


...with a Battle Rating of 9.1



To see if your Food-Eating Battle Monkey can
defeat Cthulhu, enter your name:



Cthulhu will stomp on your mortal body, Victory to Cthulhu!