The Writer's, artist's & reader's Guild

Reviews

The Wrestling Guild Episode 3: One Night Only Rivals

Nick and Chris talk about One Night Only: Rivals, Nick’s first pay per view experience.


The Wrestling Guild: Episode 2 -EC3 vs Patron

Listen to when C. Marry Hultman and Nick Abtahi discuss the march 16th episode of Impact Wrestling


Fresh Tracks: Andrew Eldritch is Moving Back to Leeds by The Mountain Goats

The Guild’s music reporter Andrew Tobias has always tried to keep his finger on what is fresh on the music scene. The goal is to highlight a new release from an artist every week. Here is the first one:

It seems to me like John Darnielle and his band always have had a theme in their songs or their albums, even though they never really were that type of act. It also seems to me that they are headed in that very direction. Their previous album, Beat the Champ, had a clear thematic red thread in wrestling and wrestlers and the forthcoming album will treat the phenomenon of Gothic Music. I guess both cases can be argued; Darnielle’s clearly personal songs have always had an overhanging theme of alienation and being an outsider and that in itself might be seen as a concept, on the other hand one might claim that any artist’s catalog is one long concept and that what The Mountain Goats are doing now is structuring it through in actual album form.

Bassist Peter Hughes stated on the band’s homepage that this theme is dearer to his heart, as is true for the rest of the group and may very well be true for most people who grew up in the 80s. The Gothic music scene, I would venture to say, has been more important and influential than we might realize. So far only Andrew Eldritch is Moving Back to Leeds has been released as a single and it sets the bar high for the coming Goth album. Eldritch, as the founder and remaining member of The Sisters of Mercy one could well argue that he is one of the more important characters of the scene. With the very recognizable sound that is the Goats the tune discusses all the feelings of middle age people who return to their old haunts after success and the adoration of all. It becomes deeply thought provoking and at times sad, with some hope at the end.

The song truly brings a longing for what The Mountain Goats will bring to the new album.

-Andrew Tobias   


Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

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Series: Book 1 in Dark Gifts series

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Del Rey Books

 

Gilded Cage is the first book in Vic James’ series that goes by the name of Dark Gifts. A story that blends human tragedy, oppressive legislature and love in an alternative world.

Luke Hadley’s world changes only days before a big test when his parents and older sister Abi announce they will all be going to Kyneston. That would not be so bad for it is one of the most opulent and grand houses in all of Britain if it was not for the fact that this meant that he was starting his slavedays. In this alternative world the nobles, here known as equals possess a magic they call Skill. As a measure to create free labor as well as to keep the citizens under control people are forced to serve ten years as slaves, working menial jobs at various facilities, in return they are afforded certain rights. Abi, the med student, has arranged for her family; mother, father, Luke, young Daisy and herself, to work at the home of the most important of the equal families: The Jardines. This would entail a cushy ten years without the hard labor others might have to endure, but once everything has been sold or packed away and goodbyes been said the harsh reality sets in. When the bus comes to collect them it is revealed that Luke will not be joining his family at Kyneston, but is instead on his way to the slavetown of Millmoor.

As the Hadleys arrive at their new home the Jardines have their own issues. There are three son; the Heir Gavar who has spawned a child with a slave, Jenner who is without skill and Silyen who is looking to end the slavedays. The two families become unavoidably intertwines when Daisy is charged with caring for the bastard Libby and Abi becomes Jenner’s secretary. The world of the equals is filled with intrigue and clandestine affairs as the chancellor is preparing to make his yearly proposal, and Gavar Jardine his impending wedding. The proposal is to end the slavedays, forced by Silyen who is the only one who can wake the man’s fiancé from her coma. Meanwhile Luke is being drafted into a secret organization at the slavetown called the club that stages random incidents.

There are many stories being told here, a full cast of characters each having their own intrigue and plot and in the end, even if there is a resolution it gets to be a bit much. Several of the plotlines are told so briefly or are only hinted at that they do not have time to marinate and they could have been better off in a sequel. For it is quite obvious that Gilded Cage is but the first in a series of books. It’s not like the story isn’t interesting, quite the contrary it is more as if some plot elements would have benefited from being prolonged and moved, while others needed more time in this first installment. The character of Luke, who spends the first part of the book in Millmoor, is moved to Kyneston for reasons best left spoiler free, but his time in the slavetown is so short when it comes to page count that the reader never gets the feeling of the horror of spending ones slavedays there. In truth the plot revolving around the equals is more interesting and more in depth than that of the Hadleys and that is really too bad since they are supposed to have an equal amount of the story.

There is much to be had from Gilded Cage and what James wants to say about the times in which we live. The divide between the wealthier classes, call them one per centers if you will, have everything and others have to slave away to even become part of our society. At times the book is a perfect blend of the romance novels that Abi reads and sometimes it is a political fantasy story that may rival the intrigue of the Tudors or G.R.R. Martin. In the end Gilded Cage is a good launching point for the world James wants to create and it will be interesting to see where it takes us.

C.M. Marry Hultman


The Wrestling Guild Podcast: Episode I

As a compliment to the podcast we already put out we have decided to give wrestling podcasting a try. This is a bit different in that we have two people discussing that have two different backgrounds. Our founder C. Marry Hultman has watched wrestling since he was young and has been a fan of Impact wrestling since he first saw it. Nick Abtahi’s only experience with wrestling is the odd WWE show on TV and that juxtaposition is what we found intersting, hopefully you do too. It will be out every Monday.


Review: A Perfect Machine by Brett Savory

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Genre: Science-Fiction/Speculative Fiction

Publisher: Angry Robot

 

 

REVIEW Sometimes it is difficult to classify a work of fiction. One my enter into it with a genre in mind, but once the reading begins it becomes confusing because it does not follow the rules. Through the years there have always been those who claim that breaking the norms of classification is bad and that has always been the battle between the old guard and the young lions when it comes to culture. Brett Savory’s new book is a perfect example of how one might break the norm.

A Perfect Machine opens up in an unknown city in an unknown era, in an unknown universe. To be perfectly honest there are quite a few details in this tale that are unknown and that is one of the strengths. Henry Kyllo is a runner, part of a ritual that has been played for a long time in the city. A sort of hunt that usually leaves him laid out riddled with bullets, but that doesn’t really matter since he always bounces back. That is just one of the strange abilities afforded runners, that and the fact that they cloak the entire affair to those who happen to experience it, very much like a memory that fades away. The healing comes with a price and every time new bullets penetrate him Kyllo’s body is altered. One night Kyllo goes overboard and gets his final dose of lead, while his best friend Milo is decapitated, the only way to kill runners apparently.

Kyllo, thought to be dead by his nurse girlfriend Faye, begins to change instead and turn into a monstrous machine and Milo turns into a ghost, following his pal around.

At the same time the head of the runners, a man by the name of Palermo, has his own issues. A young man named Krebosche is looking to expose the gang and traditions of the run and exact revenge on those involved in the death of his sister and girlfriend. A girlfriend who happened to be Palermo’s daughter. The stories cross as everyone ends up at Faye’s apartment where Kyllo is turning into something completely new.

There is a lot going on in Savory’s tale and yet the reader is often times left feeling that they do not know what is happening. The plot is easy enough to follow, as are the various characters that come in and out, but it is all those things that surround the story, the setting and background that may leave you wanting more. A Perfect Machine is billed as a science-fiction, but lacks several of the qualities that belong to the genre, or at least it would appear so. We are never, initially at least, informed of what the runners and their counter parts the hunters are; the next step in human evolution, robots or aliens, there is no mention of year or parallel universe and the setting seems to be quite similar to our own. Question is if this is necessary or if it would remove focus from what is important or if it is a conscious measure to make the book lighter on technical jargon and speculative motifs that might alienate most readers.

There is something slightly absurd about A Perfect Machine, despite the language being strong in its simplicity, and the suspension of disbelief is difficult to set aside. There are so many things that happen; men turning into machine, ghosts in the vein Patrick Swayze, vengeance as found in the works of Mickey Spillane and humans hunting each other like Surviving the Game, at times it feels like you’re  reading a Golden Age comic with better writing. Savory does make it work on some level, but one might ask if sticking to just a couple of speculative aspects wouldn’t have been better.

C.M. Marry Hultman

C. Marry Hultman

 

 


Review: With Blood Upon the Sand by Bradley P. Beaulieu

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Genre: Fantasy/Chinosaire

Publisher: Daw books

 

Back in September 2016 we reviewed the prequel to The Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, Of Sand and Malice made, we called for more desert and more of the heroine Çeda and Bradley Beaulieu delivers nearly 600 pages of just that.

REVIEW With Blood Upon the Sand is book number two in the series The Song of the Shattered Sands and the readers once again get to follow the adventures of the once White Wolf Çeda. As to not spoil the first books for those who might become interested after this review we will avoid to delve too much into the plot. In her continued effort to bring about the downfall of the Twelve Kings, legendary tyrants of the desert landscape, Çeda has become one of the Maidens. As such she has the opportunity to fight them from the inside and free the asirim, slaves to the Kings, but loosing to The Moonless Host, a revolutionary type organization has made them vengeful and out for blood.

With Blood Upon the Sand is definitely what Empire Strikes Back was to A New Hope. It manages to delve deeper into the story and characters than the previous books, just like a sequel should, but that might be to simplify things. Even though Twelve Kings was a great read there were points one might have considered a bit too heavy and why not? The first book in a series is often used to set the scene, present the characters and add history. It gives the reader a chance to slowly immerse themselves in the setting, plots and various subplots. With that out of the way Beaulieu shows that he can flex his other muscles and flew them he does. There is a breeziness to the language of this book that was not as present in the first one. That is not to say that said language is simpler, on the contrary, but without the weight of giving detail to background and descriptions Beaulieu can concentrate on character interaction and driving the story forward; and this makes for a thrilling page turner.

What also feels different in the sequel is the fact that the story branches out in an almost vine like fashion. Twelve Kings mostly gave the reader Çeda’s point of view and her story and that was expected, but now Beaulieu flips the script and allows us more insight into the other players in this oriental drama. It is only one of the ways he manages to keep an already intriguing story alive, as well as introducing deeper plot twists, new magic and mythical objects. As stated in other reviews; the strength of a great story is to avoid the hackneyed tropes or at least reuse the same in a new and interesting way and Beaulieu shows us that he is a master of this time and time again.

At the heart of it all the same theme so common to fantasy stays true; The Heart’s Desire and the battle between good and evil, although what this desire might be or who stands on what side may be up for debate. The language is consistently strong, as is the plot, and it balances from everyday training and dialogue mixed in with an almost thriller like quality reminiscent of any Cold War drama. All in all the melding of tropes in a new cauldron brought to the boil truly results in a delicious and easily digested stew.

With Blood Upon the Sand is a perfect transition from the initial act of Twelve Kings to the inevitable climax of the next installment, it sets the stage perfectly and adds the right amount of actors, intrigue and backdrop for something awesome to come down the road.

So the call for more Çeda, more desert is coupled with more intrigue as well as cloak and dagger, bring it on and quickly.

With Blood Upon the Sand is released on February 7th and the first installments The Twelve Kings in Sharakhai and Of Sand and Malice Made are available wherever you might find books.

C.M. Marry Hultman

C. Marry Hultman

 

 


Review: Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show by Eric Scott Fischl

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Genre: Fantasy/Gothic Fantasy

Publisher: Angry Robot Books

 

Familiarity in a story can be a double edged sword. It may be comforting to the reader like in romance novels purchased at the grocery store, to others it may be annoying and trite; to always know what is coming next, to not be surprised and maybe even at length be talked down to or taken for a simpleton. Naturally this might be dictated by what you read. An experienced fantasy reader with books by Stephen Donaldson, Ursula K. Leguin or Peter Beagle on their shelf might find Rowling’s Harry Potter books repetitive and borderline plagiarism. That isn’t to say that the end goal for most writers is to not turn out something new, it may be more about if the end result matches that very goal.

Eric Scott Fishcl’s Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show begins in a familiar setting, that of a traveling carnival at the end of the 19th century. To most readers a setting we know well, or at least have an idea of. It comes complete with a barker selling snake oil, a strong man, a singer and freaks. That is where the normalcy, if that can be an accurate description for a carnival, ends. The barker is Dr. Potter himself and the medicine he is trying to push is the Chock-a-saw Sagwa, a tonic that supposedly cures most ailments. He has not concocted it himself, instead there is another doctor, a Dr. Morrison Hedwith of Portland, behind the miracle drink. The Sagwa is the centerpiece of this tale of personal misery and broken figures trying to fight their obvious obstacles. As with most tonics of the age the Sagwa that Dr. Potter sells is useless, but there is a formulae that has other, more sinister effects, ones that he, the strongman Oliver, the Chinaman Fan and the proprietor of the show Lyman Rhoades desperately need. All of them are beholden to Dr. Hedwith due to dark events in their pasts and are therefore forced to help him in his twisted experiments rooted in alchemy. The very fragile balance in the medicine show is constantly threatened as the members regret their decisions, but Lyman exacts vengeance upon them regardless of their usefulness to the mission.

Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show is an excellent example of how to use tropes that have worked well in the past, and by disregarding those that have not successfully creating something fresh. The setting is reminiscent of TV shows like Deadwood or Ripper Street, a general melancholy  with a sense of not being able to get out of ones current situation. The descriptions and language are used in a masterful way. The reader becomes instantly immersed in the sadness and sorrow of the characters and the world they inhabit, but there is a beauty and serenity in it, very much like the poems by Baudelaire who is oft quoted by singer turned prostitute in the book. The tempo is fast paced without ever feeling rushed, composed like a thriller the story moves along with ease without ever simplifying words or uncomplicating the plot. It speaks to Fischl’s ability to trust the reader and speaking to the reader’s intelligence. He makes no excuses and the characters suffer and go through hell without mercy and it is refreshing.

Fischl is great at using a variety of tropes belonging to just as varied a genre of literature; The western, the Gothic romance, the urban fantasy, the thriller and classic horror and he uses their various strengths like a master craftsman carrying a toolbox filled with the best tools for a job. The characters are easily recognizable as being plucked from Gothic Horror of Victorian style. The crazed and unethical aristocrat, the young innocent damsel, the idealistic young hero, a horrible assistant and a slew of other figures that make up a rich gallery.

There is a lot that Fischl does right with this book. It is a story about broken people, seemingly feeling like they have no hope and a man preying on them for his own sick and twisted reasons. One could easily see the story being picked up by FX or HBO, it’s that kind of story. That is one of the truly interesting aspects, it has a contemporary feel, the way the tale is told. Fischl has his finger on the pulse of what is going culturally be it TV or genre fiction, but in a late 19th century setting. It melds the credibility of human interest with a fantastical element written well enough to suspend ones disbelief. In the end it makes for a great and wonderful read that won’t disappoint those used to fantasy, horror or suspense.

Familiarity is a double edged sword, a trap that an author might fall into if they are not careful. The waters are tricky to navigate when using tropes from genre fiction, but the ship that Fischl commandeers keeps the reader dry and he does not wreck on the reefs of repetitiveness and triteness. Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show takes what is familiar and makes it original and engaging.

C.M. Marry Hultman

 

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Review: Numenera: The Poison Eater by Shanna Germain

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Genre: Science Fantasy

Publisher: Angry Robot

 

One can sum the theme of The Poison Eater with one word: secrets, and if one was interested in exploring more one could say that it’s about protective secrets. Set mostly in the city of Enthait the story centers round Talia, the Poison Eater. Her job is to at regular intervals ingest poison, in the end ten different kinds, and through this see visions of threats while also endangering her own life. Once all the poisons have been taken she will be the Orness, the ruler of the City, and in charge of the aria, an apparently great weapon in her charge. The job of Poison Eater is pivotal for the existence of Enthait and the people, who depend upon the visions in order to send out soldiers to cut off the threat, a ritual that ensures the safety of the community, but that ritual comes with a price; the possible death of the Poison Eater. Talia is well aware of this and has managed to survive seven poisons, a feat not pulled off by many others, even if she has a secret; the fact that she is not the Poison Eater at all.

A stranger to Enthait, arriving alongside a mechbeast named Khee, she has managed to hide her violent past and has taken the position in order to take control of the aria so she can exact revenge on the monsters that haunt her dreams. Living in constant fear of being revealed as the fraud she is it becomes evident that she is not the only one who is keeping secrets, that in fact there are deeper secrets going around in Enthait, and that the reason for her survival so far might not be able to help her anymore.

The Poison Eater is the first fiction based in the role playing world of Numenera, a science fiction world mixing futuristic technology and a fantasy setting, one billion years in the future. Though it takes place on Earth, this is never addressed in the story. It is unclear how much the reader must be aware of this world or is expected to be aware of it. The story in itself is not affected by this knowledge, but Germain does leave quite a few things out; like the terminology the characters use. They make reference to certain objects or jobs that the reader has to guess at, but becomes clearer the farther one reads. It is understandable if some might lose interest in reading when words are not explained and even though holes in a story usually is a good thing it at times can take the reader out of the tale.

The story of Talia the Poison Eater is intriguing enough on its own and the backdrop of Numenera as a setting is not really necessary. That being said, the omission of details pertaining to terminology and the history of Enthait or the so called vordcha is a bit much to overlook. It makes the emotional connection to the main character and the other figures who pass through the story almost non existent and it is difficult to invest the book. Germain has the ability to create and interesting plot and the thought of a futuristic dystopian world where past technology is still being used is fascinating, but unfortunately it never comes together as something the reader gets to sink their teeth into. For the bright spots in the book there are dark ones that take away from them and in the end the latter ones outweigh the former.

C.M. Marry Hultman

C.M. Marry Hultman

 

 

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Review: Generation Zero from Valiant Entertainment

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Writer: Fred van Lente

Artist: Francis Portela

Publisher: Valiant Comics

 

In her hour of need Keisha Sherman decides to contact the group Generation Zero, her boyfriend has recently died in a car accident, but she believes there to be some very odd circumstances surrounding this death and she needs answers. Keisha lives in a town called Rook a place sentenced to die due to unemployment until a savior comes and revitalizes it. After her boyfriend’s death there indeed seems to be something sinister going on and it becomes clear that drunk driving wasn’t the cause. Generation Zero, a team of young psiots who have broken free from an evil corporation and help people, arrive in the city, infiltrate the high school and begin their investigation.

As soon as the investigation interesting and strange things are uncovered and the group, with Keisha are in immediate danger.

Generation Zero is yet another title that contains all those things we have come to expect from Valiant’s titles. Great storytelling combined with great art. It reflects a city in decline because of a failing economy and those that might pray on such places. It’s about fitting in, about tropes we recognize from TV shows like Stranger Things; the fantastical mixed with the mundane. There are enough conspiracy angles, pop culture references and mutant like powers to satisfy all various fandoms.

Once again Valiant drags us into its intriguing universe by blending nostalgia, social criticism, intrigue, compelling plots and wonderful art. Generation Zero makes one want to come back for more.

C.M. Marry Hultman

C.M. Marry Hultman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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