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Archive for September, 2016

Review: Breaking by Cold Wrecks

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Breaking is the first album from the Brooklyn based band Cold Wrecks, well that’s not the whole truth. This is a new version of the band Eli Whitney & the Sound Machine, which leaned towards the Ska genre. In this new iteration the band has garnered comparisons to Modern Baseball, Weakerthans and Against Me!, but that is to simplify things a bit. This is not going to be a knock on the more or less repetitive world of modern American nondescript  punk, but there is reason to have it in the back of your mind while talking about Cold Wrecks. For bands that classify themselves as punk rock today, or the even vaguer term emo, it is easy to fall into the trap that is the aforementioned style and doing so one runs a risk of sounding more like Sum 41, New Found Glory or a myriad of other forgettable bands. To truly stand out in the world of punk bands just might need to look elsewhere to find inspiration and that might just be what the Brooklynites have done.

Th opening salvo of Breaking is called Price and is truly promising, a musical nod to British post-punk like Smiths, Joy Division and more modern counterparts like The Courteneers. Unfortunately it ends there. Most of the album falls back into a punk sound. It is the same problem bands like Fightstar’s album Be Human where the best track by no means represents the other songs. It’s as if Cold Wrecks don’t quite know what they want to be. The tracks on the album are everywhere without a real cohesiveness and with a disjointed feel. One could argue that the need for a unified collection of tracks is unnecessary in the digital age, where listeners concentrate more on individual songs than  the sum of its parts, but for new listeners consistency is key.

This said Cold Wrecks style of punk rock is by no means bland. There is heart here and a willingness to experiment with the form, especially when it comes to content and themes. It’s more than your run of the mill punk and deals more with heart ache and loneliness instead of high school angst or parties.

Cold Wrecks show that they are a band that have a bright future in front of them and if they continue to experiment they can go far.

– Andrew Tobias

Andrew Tobias is a music collector, musician and cultural scholar as well as the Guild’s resident music reviewer. His former girlfriends also describe him as perpetually broken.

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Review: 4001 A.D. (Valiant Comics)

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Writer: Matt Kindt

Art: Clayton Crain

Publisher: Valiant

 

In the very distant future, New Japan is in trouble. The kingdom, these days orbiting earth, is ruled by the omnipotent artificial intelligence Father, who commands New Japan with an iron fist through various channels and pacifies the people. His son, Rai, incites a rebellion and after apparently being defeated by Father and believed dead his partner Lulu infects the A.I. with a virus. This cause Father to lose control and begins to drop parts of New Japan back to earth in order to get rid of the virus, killing thousands in the process. And that’s just the prologue…

As Lulu continues to fight the good fight while her section of New Japan is set for demolition and her parents beg her to turn herself in, Rai is still alive, trapped on Earth. With the aid of two companions and a mech-like ship the trio ventures back to the orbiting nation for a final confrontation with Father.

There is quite a bit that goes on in 4001 A.D. and at a very high pace. The few issues that the collection is comprised of tells a very compressed tale that flashes by in colorful art. It isn’t very intricate, the story, a science-fiction version of a trope we have heard before, but that in no way makes it dull. The context and society that has spawned it makes for very interesting social commentary. Father numbs the people of New Japan with entertainment, which makes them uninterested in the world around them, very much like the unnamed government in 1987’s Running Man. What Father’s motives actually are remain unanswered as such, but a misguided love, like the one Stalin might have had towards the Russians. He and Rai seem to be fighting towards the same end goal, but with a very different view of one best reaches it.

Rai, who like the monster in Frankenstein has been created by a mad entity, becomes confronted by humanity and love and that is what shapes him, that is what causes him to rebel and in turn inspires others to join the fight. There is much to be discussed between the pages of 4001 A.D.; friendship, loyalty, love and parenthood and as a reader one wishes, when it is all said and done, that there had been more, more to sink your teeth into.

As with most Valiant titles the artwork is beautiful, filled with vibrant imagery and intense colors. It moves the story along and hints at a bigger picture and a wider world. It makes the entire 4001 A.D. world more mysterious and interesting and even though the four issues only treat a small portion of the story, a quick glance of a greater whole, it becomes exciting and furious.

All in all, a book like 4001 A.D. really shows the strengths of Valiant as a publisher and universe.

C.M. Marry Hultman

C.M. Marry Hultman

RaSa

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The Face of Fear: Chapter 2

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Chapter Two

It all started, like it always did, with a shipwreck. This one ended up happening in Indonesia, off the coast of Bali in fact. Johnathan Hill, who had been in the British navy, was a confident swimmer and easily saved his wife and their infant son and they crawled onto the beach and into the arms of the Dutch rulers of the island. Luckily for the Hills that they were headed to Bali as Mr. Hill had been sent there as a cultural attaché, so once they were cleaned up and leant clean clothes they were presented to the ruler of the Dutch East Indies. The family, which consisted of Johnathan, Patricia and little Anthony, were soon moved into one of the islands finer homes made from wood, with a wraparound porch and a straw roof held up by intricately carved pillars. The house was situated on a grassy knoll shortly after their arrival dubbed Busut Busut, Busut being Indonesian for Hill, and Mrs. Hill would sit in a rocking chair on the veranda gazing at the sun reflecting in the meeting of the Pacific and Indian Oceans before her. It was a perfect existence for her; the climate, the culture, the native servants there at her beck and call and she loved the food, which was surprising because of her sensitive digestion. It was a very different lifestyle than she was accustomed to, but had become more comfortable with it following her marriage. She was of a lower caste than her husband, who came from a long line of barristers and whose family was in great standing in London.

Mr. Hill spent most of his days in Batavia in close proximity to the Governor-General, assisting him in administration, but he managed to see his wife and son more than most government officials. All in all the first years of young Anthony’s life were filled with warmth, love and tropical adventure.

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Garfield Teague stepped out of his car and tried to straighten out his coat in the process. He had never understood why his wife kept insisting that he have it pressed when it always creased as soon as he climbed into his vehicle. He removed his hat and ran a hand through his red hair; trying to make sure the part was in place, he had been very generous with the brylcreem this morning to ensure his coiffure stay in position. He fished a silver case from inside his blue pinstriped suit jacket, but thought better of it before producing a cigarette and let it slide back into the recesses of fabric. He walked over to the parking structure on the corner of Main and 7th and halted by one of the three black and whites parked on the curb, blue lights flashing almost indistinctly in the morning sun. Teague gently placed the fedora on his head and followed it by stroking his neatly cropped beard as his hand slid into a pant pocket.

‘Detective Teague’ a young officer called him over to the parking garage entrance.

‘What have we got here, Officer Boden?’ Teague asked as he approached and realized that he had taken out the cigarette case again.

‘Well it seems to be some kind of mob hit Sir’ the young man eyed his notebook. ‘Lang was first on the scene and is still down there. All I know is that there is blood everywhere, casings all over the floor and one survivor.’

‘Got it’ Teague replied and headed through the glass door and down the stone steps. His black patent leather shoes echoed in the stairwell and was slowly drowned out by chatter from the lower level. He toyed with the case and flipped it over in his hand, a nervous tick he had developed the same week his dying father had placed it in his hands. As he descended he watched his hand turn it from the back with its fleur-de-lis pattern to the front with his father’s initials; R.T.

Another street cop opened the door for him when he reached the basement floor and gave him a quick two- finger salute by touching his digits to the brim of his cap. Teague did not return the gesture, maintaining his reputation as arrogant. The otherwise so sparsely lit lower level was completely illuminated by various lamps and floodlights. In the center two vehicles were parked, a well-cared for Chrysler and a not- so- well tended truck of unknown make. They faced each other, like two lovers about to share a kiss and the symbolism made Teague miss his wife. The closer he got, the more sinister the scene before him became; Officers and medical personnel surrounded the silent cars that were both riddled with bullet holes and six white sheets littered the floor. Stains of various sizes and shapes cover a large area, reminding him of one of those Jackson Pollock paintings he had seen in the paper once. He wasn’t much of an art coinsure and most of what he had seen on field trips as a child had never tickled his fancy, but that painting, Cathedral it was called, had spoken to him. It forced him to think, like a crime or mystery that needed to be solved, he liked it, but the splatter across the grey concrete painted a very different mystery.

“It’s one hell of a scene Teague.” The voice woke him from the trance-like state he had ended up in. It was Detective Greg Glade, a rotund man wearing his brown beard and hair cropped to the same length and a nervous disposition.

“Glade,” Teague forced a smile. He had never been especially fond of the younger Detective, whom he found trying, mainly due to his defeatist attitude. “Where you the first detective on the scene?”

“Yessir. It looks like we’re working together on this one.”

“Great,” Teague turned to the rest of the scene instead and tried to survey the area.

“We’ve got six bodies laid out both here and there and that goes for the different parts as well.” Glade snickered as he mentioned that tidbit. “Most likely a mob hit or a drop off gone awry. Maybe buyer and seller couldn’t agree on a price.”

“So they took each other out?” Teague rounded the truck and inspected the crates, bent down and removed one the blood stained sheets from a body. He quickly rose and stepped back and dropped the fabric back on the headless shape. “Doesn’t seem likely” he stifled his urge to vomit. “The crates being left here would maybe indicate that, but this man was decapitated and unless you have found a sword, machete, axe or a large kitchen knife here something else is going on. Have you found such an item?”

Glade thumbed through his notebook. “Not that I can see.”

“Well then, something sinister is going on here. I would assume that all these guys pissed off the wrong person and paid a high price for it.”

“There is one survivor” Glade interrupted. “He’s at St. Mary’s I guess.”

“Right,” Teague flipped his cigarette case over in his hand again. “Not much more to do here, you stay here and spearhead the investigation on the bodies. I’ll head to the hospital.”

 

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Tony Hill stepped into the offices of WRJN News Radio Station it was 11:30 a.m. He had thanked his lucky stars that he had managed to find a job that checked so many of his boxes. It was fun, challenging at times, allowed him to start later in the day and became a vital piece in the puzzle he was trying to lay. He slung his coat across his right arm and removed his hat, quietly placing it on the coatrack, followed by the coat.

“Good day Mr. Hill.” The sweet voice of the leggy Lindsey Jones greeted him as he turned around. “Here is the sheet for the one o’clock broadcast. Big things happening.” Tony raised an eyebrow and grabbed the piece of paper. “A shooting downtown, several dead.”

“Well our listeners will get their money’s worth today. Is there any possibility of getting a representative from the force into the studio for a word?”

“I don’t know” Miss Jones replied. “I will get right on it Mr. Hill.” She hurried off at a controlled pace.

Tony kept his eye on her for as long as he could, until she rounded a corner and was out of sight. He glanced at the paper again and ran his fingers through his blond hair, making sure everything was in order.

“Hill!” A burly man in a tight-fitting beige suit and vest with a red and white tie askew stepped in front of him and slapped him on his arm. Tony tried not to wince as the ham hock of a hand hit the spot where the bullet winged him the previous night. Vic Linden was the station manager of WRJN and answered directly to the owner. His management style could be described as rabid and his conversation always came screaming with a side order of saliva. “I see you have been given the five o’clock new report already. This is a big deal, shit is hitting the fan, mark my words; we are going to have a war on our hands mics and scandihoovians.”

“You think so Sir?” Hill replied while keeping his eyes on the sheet. Linden was a visage that would cause a nauseous reaction to anyone who stared at him too long. A face full of craters, a constant sheen of sweat and a tie that was never tied properly because he was unable to button the top button of his shirts.

“Details are still coming in. We don’t know exactly who has been killed, how many or why, but sources at the precinct say it’s a blood bath and that can only mean one thing: the mob.” Linden put a frayed cigar in his mouth and tried to light it, but couldn’t get his Zippo to ignite. He looked at Hill and shrugged at him in an expectant way, but Tony shook his head to show that he didn’t carry a light.

“Anyway,” the station manager said in a frustrated tone. “You need to present this report with all the gravitas it requires. Dig deep, speculate, you know, that whole spiel.”

“I have sent Miss Jones to inquire about the Chief of Police. Too have him on the show.”

“Excellent, we’ll have them glued to their sets as if it were the President’s State of the Union.” Linden once again tried to light his cigar, met with the same difficulties and then flung the Zippo into a nearby garbage can. “Make this good Hill, I’m counting on you.”

Tony waited for his boss to head down the corridor and then walked in the opposite direction towards his own office. Having the Chief on the news would serve him two ways. One, it would be great for the ratings, improving numbers that would already be stellar for the show based on the content alone. Two, it would give him the answers he needed to persue his next move. It was all going to fall into place.

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Review: Of Sand and Malice Made by Bradley P. Beaulieu

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Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: DAW Books

 

Prequels are an interesting cultural affair. In movies the have been used to extend the life of a franchise, maybe the actors are too old or just not interested in continuing, maybe it is a promise once made to fans that the background story will one day be revealed, only to fall short i.e. Star Wars 1-3 or Prometheus. In literature it is something different; a device an author might use to further explore their created world, to tell those tales merely hinted at in a fleeting moment between two characters or to widen the intrigue. In his Tales of Egg and Dunk, beginning with The Hedge Knight, George R.R. Martin gave his readers a taste of his world before A Song of Ice and Fire takes place. He explained those things his original series could not, for such a departure would have made little to no sense.

Bradley P. Beaulieu, perennial favorite at the Guild office, has now also released a prequel to his Arabian Nights fantasy Twelve Kings in Sharakhai and is therefore subtitled The Song of Shattered Sands 0,5.

In this book the reader is treated to a tale from Çeda’s past, before the events of Twelve Kings take place. She has already made a name for herself in the fighting pits, and is referred to as The White Wolf. Çeda becomes involved with an ehkreh, some form of demonic entity, by the name of Rümayesh who lures her into her lair in order to steal her memories. Çeda finds herself fighting to not reveal her inner secrets, ones that may very well ruin her, to the crowd that Rümayesh has gathered. She’s in luck and is saved by two godling children; Hidi and Makuo and that is where she thinks the adventure ends, but alas that is not so. The White Wolf finds herself drawn in deeper and an intricate part of the ehkreh’s destiny.

Of Sand and Malice Made is a fun foray into Çeda’s history. It hints at some of her secrets and the conflict within her and the community in which she lives. The world of Twelve Kings comes alive in a vibrant blend of smells, colors and sound that complements the first book in a wondrous way. Çeda becomes somewhat of a classic picaro in the desert landscape and guides the reader through her reality filled with mischief, dangers and exotic people, like a child showing off her new room to first time visitors. Beaulieu’s world complements his protagonist and she does the same to the backdrop that houses her. His descriptions of places and people has been his strength throughout his production and without it his fairly fairly simple intrigue would fall flat. He uses tropes more common in the setting of a 19th century coming of age novel and places it in a world foreign to that kind intrigue, taking a page from Stephen Donaldson.

To those who have read Twelve Kings Of Sand and Malice Made is a welcome return to the dry climate of Sharakhai and satiates the thirst whilst waiting for the next installment. For a new reader it may well be a good starting point before delving into the complexity of the Shattered Sands series. The book is shorter than most fantasy fair and the story less elaborate, but nevertheless enticing.

Of Sand and Malice Made cements Beaulieu’s position as the next big thing in fantasy and makes us hunger for more; more Çeda, more Sharakhai and more hot desert sun.

C.M. Marry Hultman

C.M. Marry Hultman

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