Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Walking Dead Season 2: Stop and Smell the Dessicated Roses

Warning: Some spoilers follow

Season 2 of AMC’s The Walking Dead is nearing its midseason point, and apparently it sucks, at least according to a vocal minority of viewers. Why? Too much talking and not enough action. With a name like The Walking Dead, each episode should be wall-to-wall flesh munching zombies and humans gunning down undead with head shots on the wing. Or so the detractors say.

Me? I’ve been enjoying the heck out of the series, and think it’s pretty darned perfect as far as serialized television goes. The Walking Dead isn’t just about zombies. It’s also a human drama, and I’m hooked.

But I guess characterization and engagement with philosophical and moral questions aren’t what the zombie diehards want. Here’s a real sampling of some of the comments I’ve found:

To read the rest of this post, visit The Black Gate website .

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny, a review

My reading selection is mainly the product of my personal (and admittedly diverse, and quirky) preferences. Which is why you see a mixture of epic fantasy, swords and sorcery, horror, military and/or historical non-fiction, and a smattering of science fiction reviewed on this website. I also branch out into books that are acknowledged classics of their genre, titles which I wouldn’t normally read were it not for their place on “top 100 polls” and the like. Some might argue that life is too short to read uninteresting books, or to conform to public opinion, but I’ve come to realize that consensus on some issues does matter, especially after finding that several of my forays into the classics have been well worth the trip. Watership Down is among the top 20 books I’ve ever read, for example. Ditto Slaughterhouse Five and 1984. Other titles have been duds and left me wondering “what’s the hype all about?”, but at least I can say I made the effort.

This helps explain my recent foray into Roger Zelazny’s 1967 Hugo Award winning novel Lord of Light. If you take a look at any of the top 100 SF lists, you’ll see this book frequently mentioned. That’s why I picked it up. Now that I’ve read it, I’d put Lord of Light into the category of a Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, which I found to be a mixed bag.  It’s a very good book, and I get why it’s accorded its classic status. But just like Matheson’s tale, I would describe Lord of Light as a book of great ideas, marred a bit by its execution.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Black Sabbath reuniting—blech

My love for heavy metal is well documented here. So is my love for Black Sabbath, a band which I consider among the best heavy metal bands of all time (this is hardly a controversial statement, though perhaps some would quarrel with my placing them behind Judas Priest and Iron Maiden). Their first few albums—Black Sabbath, Sabotage, Paranoid, and Master of Reality—are among the greatest the genre has produced. In my mind they are the first heavy metal band (sorry Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple), and so are responsible for launching my favorite genre of music. For that reason alone, Black Sabbath will have my eternal gratitude.

Given those facts, you would think that I’d be doing proverbial backflips over the news that the original Ozzy-fronted Black Sabbath has reunited yet again.

But then, you’d be wrong. I am decidedly less than enthusiastic. The reason is that Ozzy is completely and utterly shot.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Latest The Hobbit Production Video: A Deep Delve Into 3D

I still haven’t quite come to grips with The Hobbit in 3D. I’ve got a few 3D films under my belt—Avatar, Captain America, Green Lantern, and Jaws 3—and to be honest, the added dimension hasn’t done much for me. Avatar made the most of it with its rich images of Pandora; the other films felt like they were trying to capitalize on a fad (hey, look, there’s a shield coming at me!) in order to take in a few extra bucks at the gate.

In short, I still prefer good old fashioned 2D, even after watching the latest The Hobbit production video on Peter Jackson’s Facebook page. Judging by the mixed feelings in the comments, others prefer 2D, too. “Love your work Peter, the technology is fascinating, and I can’t wait for 2012. But this 3d stuff is an absolutely horrid and wretched fad which adds zero value to any movie which incorporates it,” writes one commenter. But there were many more positives than negatives amongst the comments, and having viewed the video I’m a bit more optimistic with the thought of donning a pair of uncomfortable plastic glasses and settling in to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 3D next December.

To read the rest of this post, visit The Black Gate website.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I’m an Elvis man when it comes to zombies

It’s often been said—I believe the saying originated with the film Pulp Fiction—that you’re either an Elvis man or a Beatles man. You can’t be equal parts fan of the larger than life King of Rock and Roll and his bombastic, hip-shaking style, and love the cerebral, trippy sounds of the Fab Four with equal fervor (though apparently the Beatles were themselves big Elvis fans—go figure).

Whether or not you buy into the theory I think it can be profitably applied to the dual nature of zombie fiction.

Zombies are certainly malleable monsters and can represent concepts like out of control consumerism, or the dangers of conformity, as well as mortality, cancer, and other real-life issues. Zombie literature can be "literary," in short. But in the end when I pick up a zombie anthology I want mostly stories about flesh-eating undead overrunning the world, and humans stubbornly fighting back. World War Z by Max Brooks is still the high water mark for this type of zombie fiction. If you’re going to publish an anthology about zombies, the stories ought to have a lot of red meat and apocalypse to them. Deep literary and/or philosophical subtlety? Yeah, zombie fiction can do that too, but I prefer a little less conversation and a little more action in my zombie stories. Literary is okay in smaller doses.

Fortunately Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead (edited by John Skipp) contains enough Elvis to scratch my rock-and-roll itch. It doesn’t warp the term “zombie” beyond all recognition, as does the John Joseph Adams anthology The Living Dead, which features a few stories with no zombies at all and lots of ham-handed political commentary. There’s a little of that here (Lisa Morton’s cartoonish “Sparks Fly Upwards”) but not enough to be a deal-breaker. Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead contains 32 short stories by such luminaries as Stephen King, Robert Bloch, and Ray Bradbury, as well an introduction by Skipp and two concluding essays on the history of the zombie genre and the reasons for its enduring popularity. Checking in at 700 pages, the book is so thick it “can also be used for staving in heads,” proclaims a back cover blurb. I believe it.