SciFi Book Review: The Last One

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

Synopsis:
She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far.

It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of their endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it man-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game.

Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes.

But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will be either her triumph or her undoing.

Review:
A Survivor-type reality show turns horrific, but Zoo can’t grasp the truth and clings to the hope that everything is just a part of the show – elaborate props and hidden cameras. The show starts like many others, with likable and unlikable characters (who soon become the “villains” of the show). And drama makes for better tv. After team challenges, comes the solo adventure – when Zoo becomes separated from the others. And her reality becomes skewed.

The Last One is a survivor story told in a unique way. We follow Zoo’s journey, with flashbacks to the start of the show. I thoroughly enjoyed this way of unfolding the story and characters. Suspense builds from the post-apocalyptic Zoo and her companions, to a Zoo who can’t comprehend what has happened in “present day.” The story is well-paced and wrought with excitement, drama, and engaging characters. The adventure builds to a surprising but satisfying conclusion. I highly recommend this one for those who enjoy psychological thrillers.

Box Review: Comic Bento – August 2016

Comic Bento

Comic Bento is a subscription Graphic Novel Box – A surprise selection of fantastic Graphic Novels with at least $60 worth of comics in every box and mailed right to your door!

Pricing starts at $20/month plus shipping. Sign up now and save 15% with code SAVE15 and this link!

Comic Bento

This month’s theme was ANIMAL PLANETS. Each box comes with a nice card describing each of the month’s picks.

Comic Bento

This month, there was also a cute, original, card-sized print.

Comic Bento

XOC: Journey of a Great White (Retail $19.99) – This definitely didn’t interest me. Maybe children really into sharks would enjoy it. Disappointment #1.
Publisher: Oni Press (August 21, 2012)

Comic Bento

Homecoming Vol 1 (Retail $9.99) – This looks like a fun, alien invasion story. I’ll definitely give this a try.
Publisher: Aspen MLT, Inc. (September 6, 2016)

Comic Bento

Jurassic Strike Force 5 Vol. 1 (Retail $9.99) – Wow, another dud. The artwork is as corny as the story.
Publisher: Zenescope (October 22, 2013)

Comic Bento

Sam and Fuzzy Fix Your Problem (Retail $15.00) – I’m not into comic strip style, so this is disappointment 3 of 4.
Publisher: TopatoCo (2010)

Summary: Only one pick this month peaked my interest. What a waste of another good theme. Unless they get back to more mainstream DC, Marvel – even Dynamite – I probably won’t sign back up again.

Graphic Novel Review: Batgirl Vol. 3: Mindfields

Batgirl Vol. 3: Mindfields

Synopsis:
She rides a cool motorcycle, swings a mean right hook, and has backup from the best crime-fighters in the biz, but Batgirl’s greatest weapon has always been her mind. As the brilliant Barbara Gordon, she’s on the verge of a tech breakthrough that could transform her beloved Burnside neighborhood, and all of Gotham City to boot—though if it falls into the wrong hands, it could just as easily devastate them.

But how can Batgirl stop a hacker who can break into her brain itself?

A sinister figure has been haunting Batgirl’s nightmares and stealing all her secrets, from her high-tech innovations to her hidden identity. And he’ll use that knowledge to destroy her forever.

Now Batgirl must assemble a band of her best friends and closest allies—including Spoiler, Black Canary, Batwing and more—to stop the most dangerous enemy she’s ever known, or Burnside and the entire Bat-family will burn…

It all comes down to this! The revolutionary creative team of Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr bring the saga of the Batgirl of Burnside to a close in BATGIRL VOL. 3: MINDFIELDS. Be there for the shocking climax to one of the greatest Batgirl stories ever told!

Collects BATGIRL #46-52.

Review:
In this third volume of Batgirl of Burnside, the plot is just as engaging as ever as a mysterious assailant messes with Batgirl’s memories. And while she’s great on her own, I love the team-up scenes even more. I have really loved these 3 solid graphic novels with great villains, friends, and story lines. The story ties up with a bittersweet ending that left me wanting more. I loved the artwork and imagery. And one of my favorite stories was the finale, a one-shot that was told completely with pictures, no words. It was fantastic.

Author Guest Post: Alex Bledsoe on World Building!

Bledsoe

SOME THOUGHTS ON WORLD BUILDING
by Alex Bledsoe

World-building is a cornerstone (heh; building pun) of fantasy. Starting with the assumption that something unreal exists—vampires, dragons, elves, whatever—we then expand into the ways it influences the world in which the story happens. I’ve done it in three different ways.

The most obvious way, in my Eddie LaCrosse novels and stories, is to create an entirely new world from scratch, one that has no connection with our own, either in history, culture or religion. It’s called a “secondary world” in fantasy-speak, a term coined by Tolkein to differentiate a setting from the real, or primary, world. I’ve always disliked that term, because it implies a diminution, as if the fantasy world was somehow less than the real world. Granted many times it is, but when it works, it’s as real, as primary, as the one I’m sitting in as I type this.

When I created the world of Eddie LaCrosse, I made a couple of decisions up front. People would have regular names (i.e., Eddie), they would not speak in either faux Shakespeare or cod-Bilbical (“Behold, he is the Chosen One, who will fulfill yon Prophecy!”), and that the characters would all have identifiable jobs. I chose all this because I wanted to write the series in a voice similar to the great noir writers (Chandler, Parker, Vachss). It’s hard to do that seriously with Tolkein-ish names (“Eowyn walked into my office with a stride like a prize Rohan filly”—see?).

My Tufa novels take place ostensibly in the “primary” world, but deal with a unique fictional culture that exists within it. To make that work requires a balancing act between things the reader knows (cars, farms, families, et al.) and things they likely don’t (fairies, dream time, etc.). There’s no guide for this sort of thing; it either feels right, or it doesn’t. Sometimes it feels right at first, then goes wrong as you develop it further.

This is very close to the concept of “magical realism,” a term often used by literary writers who don’t want to be classified within a genre (i.e., “speculative fiction” instead of “science fiction” [I’m looking at you, Cormac McCarthy]). It was first used to describe the work of Latin American authors such as Isabel Allende, and has an appropriately nebulous definition. But I read a great description once (don’t ask me where) that said, in paraphrase, “It takes the world as everyone knows it, except for one aspect that’s slightly askew.” Think the magical cooking in Like Water for Chocolate, or the clairvoyance of The House of the Spirits.

This approach has the beauty of maintaining the sense of wonder that sometimes get lost when “paranormal” elements are accepted as part of the world, as in much of urban fantasy. The lack of overt explanation for either the reader or the characters means that they share the surprise at any “magical” occurrences.

I wrote two vampire novels set in 1975 Memphis, and that presented a challenge not unlike building a fantasy world. Although I lived through that period as a child, I wasn’t attuned to the subtleties of it; my memories are mostly of pop culture references. I had to research events, attitudes, even Seventies clothing (AGHHH!) in order to create—or in this case, recreate—the world. And as Michael Cimino said about Heaven’s Gate, “One uses history in a very free way,” so there is one glaring (to me, at least) anachronism that so far no reader has mentioned.

I’ve written about other “worlds” in various short stories, including westerns, horror, and of course, fantasy. Through all this, I’ve learned one thing: you can’t take the world for granted. Even in an entirely contemporary, entirely mundane story, you may be creating a world that a potential reader has never seen. It’s your job to figure out the details that will conjure that world in the reader’s mind so that they can inhabit it as fully as your characters. If you achieve that, then you have built a world.

Box Review: Bam Box – August 2016

Bam Box

The Bam Box was founded in 2015 by Bloof, the same team of geeks, comic book lovers and pop culture collectors that started ComiconAuction.com. We love collecting. We love the thrill of it, the mystery of it and especially that feeling you get when you have a collectible in your hands that you are really excited about. So we set out to bring something different to everyone.

There are some great subscription boxes on the market, but we felt there was still something missing. We went to the drawing board with the goal of creating the box we would want to show up on our doorstep. After a lot of ideas and prototypes we arrived at the Bam Box. From the design of the box to the items inside to the instant winners we send out, we accomplished what we wanted to do: give you the subscription box we would be jealous of.”

Cost: 1 month plan starts at $24.99 plus $7.99 s/h

*SciFiChick.com received a box for review purposes.

Bam Box

There is a handy sheet included with a description of all of the items in the box and any possible 1-Ups!

This month’s theme was “Crazy”!

Bam Box

I received a pin of Ace Ventura. It’s a strange design – I wouldn’t have guessed the character ever.

Bam Box

EXCLUSIVE RELEASE: Batman The Killing Joke Soundtrack – This is a 2-song 45 EP. I don’t know anyone with a record player, but it’s a fun novelty if you do.

Bam Box

Hannibal Lecter Mask – Creepy! This would make an easy Halloween costume.

Bam Box

What’s in the box?

Bam Box

Ahhhh! I had a good laugh about this one. Like everyone who has seen it, scenes from Se7en are burned in my brain.

Bam Box

Harley Quinn Print by Nathan Szerdy – This is a pin-up style that obviously does nothing for me – except make me roll my eyes.

Katana Signed Photo – Signed by the actress herself, this was pretty cool!

Bam Box Bam Box

I was an instant winner of a hand-drawn and airbrushed sketch card from Bianca Thompson. It’s definitely not my style nor do I know who this is supposed to be. Any guesses? Weird.

Summary: This was obviously not my favorite box. But the theme was a hint that it wouldn’t be for me. Hopefully, next month’s theme will be more up my alley with items I’d be more apt to keep around.

Received in August

The following are the books, movies, television shows, etc. I received in August for review and/or giveaways:

Mystery Box:
The Bam Box
TeeBlox

Ace:
Into the Guns by William C. Dietz

Archaia:
Lantern City Vol. 2 by Matthew Daley

Arc Manor / Phoenix Pick:
Soulmates by Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn

Disney Hyperion:
Star Wars: Ahsoka by E. K. Johnston
Saving Hamlet by Molly Booth
A List of Cages by Robin Roe
Lockwood & Co., Book Four: The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud
Eden’s Escape by M. Tara Crowl
The Shadow Guard by J. D. Vaughn
Cupcake Cousins, Book 3: Winter Wonders by Kate Hannigan

Little, Brown:
Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Penguin / Blue Rider Press:
The Watchers by Jon Steele
Angel City by Jon Steele
The Way of Sorrows by Jon Steele

Penguin Young Readers / Putnam / Razorbill:
Between Worlds by Skip Brittenham
The Last Star by Rick Yancey
Iceling by Sasha Stephenson
The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

Random House Kids / Crown:
100 Dresses: If the Magic Fits by Susan Maupin Schmid
Thrones and Bones: Skyborn by Lou Anders

Roc:
Masked City by Genevieve Cogman

Scholastic:
Bionic by Suzanne Weyn
Key Hunters #3: The Haunted Howl by Eric Luper
Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison

Shadow Mountain:
Mysteries of Cove: Gears of Revolution by J. Scott Savage

Simon and Schuster / Saga:
The Cold Eye by Laura Anne Gilman

Simon and Schuster Children’s / Aladdin / Simon Pulse:
The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner
Swarm by Scott Westerfeld

Subterranean Press:
Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi by John Scalzi
Coco Butternut by Joe R Lansdale

Tor:
Navigators of Dune by Brian Herbert

Tor Teen / Starscape:
Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians: The Dark Talent by Brandon Sanderson

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