Monthly Archives: May 2015

Our Weekly Dark Horse Presents (Vol 4)

Dark Horse Presents Volume 4

  

This volume introduced Trekker, while continuing Concrete, Mindwalk, and Boris The Bear. I really enjoyed Concrete! First let’s discuss Trekker!

Trekker by Ron Randall

Trekkers are bounty hunters in this SciFi tale. The particular Trekker this story features is Mercy St Clair. Mercy is quickly introduced by her actions as a cool, tough character, able to take on and defeat multiple villains at once. So when she gets in a difficult situation later on you think she can make it through, but what if she can’t? Good solid first story. 

  
Concrete by Paul Chadwick

Concrete keeps turning keys within your heart to unlock deep emotions. The concept, combined with the artwork and story peaceably evoke an emotional response within the reader. I’m not sure how Paul Chadwick does this. I do know that Concrete is what many creators aspire to create and only few do. 

  
Mindwalk by Randy Stradley and Randy Emberlin

Sibling rivalry can be an ugly thing. Especially when your sibling is a bully. While I am not a fan of this storyline I think they have an interesting concept. Creators have many difficult tasks and one of those tasks is sorting out how cliched you allow your work to be. This one falls a little too heavily on the cliched side for me. 

  
Boris The Bear by James Dean Smith and Randy Stradley

Still not connecting here but I did enjoy this one more than the first episode. The first episode tried really hard to be funny and failed whereas this one didn’t try as hard and succeeded in being funny. 

  
Next week brings us more Concrete, Trekker, and Roma and I’ll be interested to see how often Concrete will succeed in tugging on my heartstrings. 

The Winners Of Most Influential Books Are

The Most Influential Books and the Runner Ups

I was asked to share on which books were the most influential books in my life. This is an incredibly difficult task for me because it’s incredibly hard to isolate a few out of the many. It was made a little more difficult as I was trying to share a picture of them and realized that I keep giving some of the books I would have selected (The Great Divorce by CS Lewis or My War Gone By I Miss It So by Anthony Loyd or The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein) away as gifts to other readers. So I limited myself to these five books that I currently own:

  
The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien was the book that inspired me to read. Seriously. I saw it as a child and knew I had to read it. So I did and it launched a lifelong love of books. Dune by Frank Herbert transformed my worldview more than any other work of fiction. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius was written by a Roman Emperor 2,000 years ago and still speaks strongly to how I desire to live today. Shadow Of A Dark Queen by Raymond E Feist inspired me to write my own stories when I was a teenager and still does today. The Killing Rage by Eamon Collins laid bare the Irish Republican Army from the inside out and helped me to see what could inspire a man to kill and terrorize others while showing me how a person can return from that place of darkness. His sharing of his story quite possibly cost him his life, and I feel it should be read. 

  
On the shelf behind these books are some of my runner ups that I felt deserved to be mentioned

  
Ship Of Fools by Richard Paul Russo is a book that feels alive and both terrifies as it inspires. It captures the feeling of the original (and best) Aliens movie: Alien. The Shining Ones by David Eddings because the cover of this book inspired me to read Eddings and to start my own book collection. The Druid Of Shannara as it is the book that first introduced me to Terry Brooks and showed me the picture of a tormented soul that only wanted peace but sacrificed that for a cause far greater than personal peace. Robotech The Sentinels Vol 1 The Devil’s Hand by Jack McKinney because as a child the Robotech series was alive to me and I read it over and over again losing myself in the pages of the series. Sometimes The Magic Works by Terry Brooks not because it inspired me to write but because it inspires me on how to approach life. Eon, Eternity, and Legacy by Greg Bear because you won’t find better SciFi anywhere and within the pages of these three books you’ll be faced time and again with moral choices and deep questions on humanity. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card because in Ender Card has created the ultimate outsider from which to look upon humanity. The Magic Engineer by LE Modesitt Jr because no list would be complete without Modesitt and how he makes you confront balance, question yourself, and better yourself while telling an amazing story. The rest of Frank Herbert’s Dune saga because you can’t just stop with Dune! FH does a better job of exploring humanity than most humans ever will. Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons because truly who does watch the watchers? Leaves Of Grass by Walt Whitman because WW will inspire life within you with his words. Memory, Sorrow And Thorn by Tad Williams because I came across this series at a time when I needed an escape from every day life and this trilogy transported me into a magical realm. Distant Friends and Warhorse by Timothy Zahn because they showed me how excellent SciFi can be and challenged my ethics. The Eye Of The World by Robert Jordan because I found RJ’s work at a time when I was the same age as his three main characters and came of age with them. In The Lake Of The Woods by Tim O’Brien because O’Brien helps to open up the Vietnam War to those of us born to its veterans. Kingdoms Of The Wall by Robert Silverberg challenges your belief system. The Real Story by Stephen R Donaldson shows you how difficult a task it is to get to the truth when everyone has their own truth. Poland by James A Michener opened up a part of the world for me. 
These books and many others influenced me in many ways. Exploring humanity and trying to understand our nature matters to me and these authors offered glimpses into that. I think the more we wrestle with our morals and ethics the more we discover who we are as a species and enables us to discover what makes us human. 
Selecting five books from my bookshelves was a difficult task! So I enlisted my puppy dog’s help! She had final day and approved my selections. 

   
 Which books would be your most influential books?

Our Weekly Dark Horse Presents (Vol 3)

Dark Horse Presents Volume 3

  
In this installment DHP continues three stories while introducing a new one. Still impressed with the quality of this anthology. This time around two of the stories really grabbed me while two didn’t hold my interest, which can often be the case with an anthology. 

Mindwalk by Randy Stradley and Randy Emberlin

While I can see what the creators are trying to create here this story has lost my interest. A promising concept that is overwhelmed by melodrama. That said I think it would appeal to many, just not my cup of tea. 

  
Concrete by Paul Chadwick

Again proving that for some creators the magic works! I can’t put my finger on why exactly I am always amazed by Concrete, but I think it has to do with the enjoyable artwork, insightful stories, quality character development, and the overall feel of the story. 

  
Black Cross by Chris Warner

Always a fan of Chris Warner’s artwork. Black Cross continues to develop and shape itself into a quality story that has the chance to speak upon society’s issues. One to keep an eye on!

  
Boris The Bear by James Dean Smith and Randy Stradley

Boris The Bear was one of those 80’s phenomenons that I never quite got even though I grew up during the 80’s. A living teddy bear and the struggles it faces in life. This episode seems to be primarily comic relief. Boris The Bear has potential but this introduction isn’t very appealing to me. 

  
Looking forward to next week’s Dark Horse Presents! It will feature the first installment of Trekker and that looks interesting! Check back next week to see what it is!

Our Weekly Dark Horse Presents (Vol 2)

Dark Horse Presents Volume 2

  
The first volume of Dark Horse Presents was incredible. The bar has been set high. Now comes the real challenge for a young independent comic book publisher: Can they sustain success and interest beyond the always sought after issue 1 of comic book culture. 

In short: Yes. Yes they can and they did. 

Concrete by Paul Chadwick 

Somehow Chadwick captures magic and puts it on display each time. The concept of the writer being drawn into the wilderness and letting their imagination roam free is timeless, and as such is used often. However this author keeps it fresh and engaging. Truly magical. If you want to write you should read Concrete. 

  

Mindwalk by Randy Stradley and Randy Emberlin
 Not as unique as the first installment. The creators relied a little too heavily on the melodrama and as such this episode was a little too soap operatic. 
  
Hellwalk, INC by JM DeMatteis and Mark Badger
 Oh now this was interesting! Love the artwork. It captures the emotions of the scenes while looking as if it was scribbled in pen. Characters are engaging and the concept behind the story is neat. Looking forward to more by these creators.

 

 
Looking forward to what next week’s Dark Horse Presents will feature!  

Zombies And Knights? A Bright Star!

RedStarReviews presents the second monthly installment of Stars In The Sky our hunt for independent books. In these reviews we are focusing on finding quality indie books and bringing them to your attention. 
This month our book selection was The Scourge by Roberto Calas which is a medieval zombie tale and quite enjoyable! 
The Scourge features three Knights who are making their way across a zombie filled England. Their mission is to rescue the wife of the leader of the three, and they’ll allow nothing to stand in their way. 
In a market saturated with zombie stories this is the first I’ve encountered set during this time in history and it works perfectly. The populace is already used to hardships and plagues and honestly a person in that time period might have stood a better chance than we would in our own time! 
The banter between the primary characters is excellent and keeps the story advancing at a fast pace. The author tries to be respectful of the settings and time the story is set within, and does a great job of telling a good story. The anguish and personal hell that Edward (the lead character) is going through while trying to reach his wife is exquisitely displayed as is his turmoil of seeing the country he has fought for and sworn to overrun by an endless enemy. You’ll find yourself caring about and invested in these characters. 
Our goal (as stated above) with Stars In The Sky is to find quality independent works and give them greater visibility. Last month the bar was set high with The Crown Of Stones: Magic Price and this month the level of quality has been maintained by The Scourge. Looking forward to reading and enjoying more by Roberto Calas!

The Heretical Heresies Of Horus

Within this post we shall examine the foundation of The Horus Heresy, what the series is, what it is connected to, information that would greatly assist you as you undertake the journey of reading this excellent series, and some of the practical notes on the logistics of the series all in a fairly Spoiler Free method. In future posts we will discuss the actual books in a little more detail and as such those posts may contain a few Spoilers just because they cover the series as it grows, but they won’t be Spoiler laden. Our goal is to interest you in reading the books we review, not in spoiling the fun. 

Please note: there are also games, models, miniatures, comic books, and audio books that detail this series. For the purpose of this review we will only focus upon the books.

Now on to the Heresy! 

  

The Horus Heresy is a 30+ (and growing) SciFi book series that sets the stage for the WarHammer40K (WH40K) Universe. What’s that you say? You don’t know about WH40K? Well imagine a GrimDark future Imperium of Mankind that spans across our galaxy. It’s been running for 10,000 years and is always on the brink of destruction but barely keeps enduring thanks to the heroic actions of the Space Marines: genetically altered super warriors who live an almost eternal life of fighting humanity’s enemies and protecting us from falling into Chaos. 
The future isn’t pretty. It’s very dark and dangerous but it wasn’t always so! There was a time at the foundation of the Imperium of Man when the superhuman Emperor walked amongst us and was guiding us into a Golden Age of promise, of science, of hope. From his very being he created the Primarchs: superhuman beings made in the image of the Emperor. His sons. Gifted in ways as he was. Each Primarch was given a legion of Space Marines of his own that had been created from the Primarch’s genetics just as the Primarch was taken from the Emperor’s genes. 
The Emperor then led his Primarchs and their legions of Space Marines on a two hundred year long war of reunification of humanity that had previously migrated from humanity’s birthplace of Earth. After two hundred years of this conquest the Emperor is returning to Earth to start the next phase of the Golden Age and leaves the task of the never ending wars of expansion and reunification in the hands of his favored son: the Primarch Horus. 
  
This is where The Horus Heresy begins. On the eve of the greatest possible age of humanity, Chaos creeps in. Dark Powers that have been taking shape behind the scenes for decades start to rise to the fore and even the most pure and mighty will face temptation and possibly fall. When many beings have godlike power and purpose what hope of survival does the galaxy have when those purposes and powers find themselves at odds?
Someone asked how The Horus Heresy compares to A Song Of Ice And Fire. This was a question I wasn’t expecting because while both series are excellent they are quite different in nature. One stark contrast (don’t lose your heads over the pun ASOIAF fans) stands out: ASOIAF tries to take the giant characters you see in High Fantasy and make them human. In The Horus Heresy the authors are taking the major characters and making them so much more than human. The Emperor, the Primarchs, the Space Marines all are much larger than life characters and this series examines events in the WH40K universe that have been much alluded to but never examined. As a result the primary characters are seen as giants in every way and as the noblest of beings. This is so that when the darkness wells up from within or surrounds from without you can truly see it for the evil that it is. 
But what is good and what is evil? That has been a question that plagues us all and is one of the primary drives within this conflict. Is the Emperor good? Is he saving humankind from ourself or is he a tyrannical conqueror enslaving us to his will and condemning us to an empty future? Is the Emperor’s chosen son Horus evil for rising against his father or is he good and bringing freedom to choose our own destiny to humanity? 
  
And conflict it is. The Heresy spreads and sides are chosen. Misunderstanding, doubt, jealously, hatred, rage, and miscommunication flourish in the heart of Chaos and destruction follows close behind. The greatest war to engulf our species breaks out and you’ll see the greatest of heroics and darkest of treacheries. There is no war darker than a civil war and this one might tear the universe apart. 
Time to discuss some of the logistics of this series! The series as I said is already greater than 30 books long (and growing) with each book typically being between 400 to 500 pages in length. Multiple books are released within the same year and sometimes the books cover the same events but from very different perspectives. This is able to happen and be maintained by the fact that it is being written by multiple authors and not just one. Several excellent authors who have helped to shape the WH40K Universe have joined forces to examine this dark time at the foundations of its history, each a very talented author who brings certain strengths to the development of the story overall. 
How long does this Heresy take for there to be so many books? Well future historians have offered differing opinions upon this fact but most agree that this chapter in human history lasted around a decade. However as this conflict spans the galaxy there are several different stories to be told as it all comes together. The first few books of the series set the stage for the Heresy and advance the story, then the series starts examine events taking place from different angles, often advancing the series bit by bit but always expounding upon the characters and events that make up this greatest of conflicts.
Within the overall series you’ll find there are a few short story collections. These stories will sometimes go further back in time to show you the origin of some of the characters and organizations within the conflict and often add valuable depth to the series. It’s an interesting way to tell the overall story. 
Overall the experience of reading The Horus Heresy has been an enjoyable one as you meet so many characters that you truly care about and you experience the devastation of this conflict through their eyes. The authors do a fantastic job of bringing these godlike beings alive within the pages, and capture your imagination with their storytelling abilities. Though there are many authors writing this series they aren’t at odds with each other and they truly accentuate each other with each author bringing something to the table. 
 
Future posts on this subject will delve a little deeper into the specific books of the series and as such may contain some Spoilers for those who haven’t read them. We will try and avoid this but it can be difficult to discuss book 11 of 30 without divulging something that happened within book 8. We’ll try and mark Spoilers but we encourage y’all to open the pages of the books and enjoy the series so that we can discuss it together! 
The Horus Heresy is the definition of an epic and it is a tale deserving to be told. RedStarReviews will continue reading this story and recommending it!
I’d like to thank my puppy as she helped me with all of the photos. Thank you Piper! 

Our Weekly Dark Horse Presents

Dark Horse Presents Volume 1

  

This is the comic book that launched the greatest comic book anthology of my lifetime. Published in 1986 it started with a bang with its Black Cross cover and debut of both Black Cross and Concrete.
Black Cross by Chris Warner
Chris Warner was already an established name in comic books and was trying his hand at creator owned works. He wanted to explore various narrative structures available in comic books with this work. The world in which Black Cross is introduced is a brutal kill or be killed world. Within this first issue the stage is set for Black Cross to go from a special ops soldier to a rogue operative pitted against the world and the forces who trained him. A dangerous man with a conscience that is burning within him. Can’t wait to see where this goes!
  
Concrete by Paul Chadwick
This is an interesting story! Not just overall (man finds himself transformed into a nearly indestructible concrete being) but this specific installment! It deals not only with the topic of domestic abuse but also with the cost and hypocrisy of fame. Concrete finds not only are there things that matter more than money, he also learns the dangers of trusting strangers. 
  
Mindwalk by Randy Stradley and Randy Emberlin
Interesting! People with the ability to go into the minds of others! Yet as we well know with great power comes great responsibility and also great risk! Interesting concept. 
  

 

Brightner! by Paul Chadwick
In which Paul Chadwick explores the concept of fame and how best to use it.