2008 Bests: Film, Video Games & Wrap Up

Film

Ok I’m going to take a lot of flack for this but my favorite theatrical release wasn’t The Dark Knight.  It was Iron Man.  Oh, don’t get me wrong I think Dark Knight is an absolutely stunning film with some truly superb performances.  It certainly aims higher than Iron Man in terms of what it says about it’s main characters but at the same time I feel it over reaches in terms of what, plot wise at least, it tries to accomplish.  At the same time there is a certain amount of heavy handedness to the juxtaposition of Batman and the Joker that belittles its audience and keeps it from reaching the level of narrative it could have.

Continue reading “2008 Bests: Film, Video Games & Wrap Up”

Book Review Link Meme

Apparently I missed this post over at Grasping at the Wind.  Check out the below list of Book Review blogs, now with 100% more sites beginning with the letter K.

7 Foot Shelves
The Accidental Bard
A Boy Goes on a Journey
A Dribble Of Ink
A Hoyden’s Look at Literature
Adventures in Reading
The Agony Column
Andromeda Spaceways
The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
Ask Daphne
aurealisXpress
Australia Specfic in Focus
Author 2 Author
Barbara Martin
Bees (and Books) on the Knob
Bibliophile Stalker
Bibliosnark
BillWardWriter.com
The Billion Light-Year Bookshelf
Bitten by Books
The Black Library Blog
Blog, Jvstin Style
Blood of the Muse
The Book Bind
Bookgeeks
Bookslut
The Book Smugglers
Bookspotcentral
The Book Swede
Bookrastination
Breeni Books
Cheaper Ironies [pro columnist]
Cheryl’s Musings
Critical Mass
The Crotchety Old Fan
Damien G. Walter
Danger Gal
Dark Wolf Fantasy Reviews
Darque Reviews
Dave Brendon’s Fantasy and Sci-Fi Weblog
Dear Author
The Deckled Edge
Dragons, Heroes and Wizards
The Discriminating Fangirl
Dusk Before the Dawn
Enter the Octopus
Eve’s Alexandria
Fantastic Reviews
Fantastic Reviews Blog
Fantasy Book Critic
Fantasy Cafe
Fantasy Debut
Fantasy Book Reviews and News
Fantasy and Sci-fi Lovin’ Blog
Feminist SF – The Blog!
The Fix
The Foghorn Review
Frances Writes
From a Sci-Fi Standpoint
Fruitless Recursion
The Galaxy Express
Galleycat
The Gamer Rat
Genre Reviews
Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review
Grasping for the Wind
The Green Man Review
Hasenpfeffer
Highlander’s Book Reviews
Horrorscope
The Hub Magazine
Hyperpat’s Hyper Day
Ink and Keys
io9
Jumpdrives and Cantrips

King of the Nerds

Lair of the Undead Rat
League of Reluctant Adults
The Lensman’s Children
Literary Escapism
Michele Lee’s Book Love
The Mistress of Ancient Revelry
MIT Science Fiction Society
Monster Librarian
More Words, Deeper Hole
Mostly Harmless Books
My Favourite Books
Neth Space
The New Book Review
NextRead
OF Blog of the Fallen
The Old Bat’s Belfry
Outside of a Dog
Paranormality
Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist
Piaw’s Blog
Post-Weird Thoughts
Publisher’s Weekly
Reading the Leaves
Realms of Speculative Fiction
Reviewer X
The Road Not Taken
Rob’s Blog o’ Stuff
Robots and Vamps
Sandstorm Reviews
ScifiChick
Sci Fi Wire
SciFiGuy
Sci-Fi Fan Letter
Sci-Fi Songs [Musical Reviews]
The Sequential Rat
Severian’s Fantastic Worlds
SF Diplomat
SF Gospel
SFReader.com
SF Reviews.net
SF Revu
SF Signal
SF Site
SFF World’s Book Reviews
Silver Reviews
The Specusphere
Spinebreakers
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Speculative Fiction
Speculative Fiction Junkie
Speculative Horizons
Spiral Galaxy Reviews
Spontaneous Derivation
Sporadic Book Reviews
Stella Matutina
The Sudden Curve
The Sword Review
Tangent Online
Tehani Wessely
Temple Library Reviews
Tor.com [also a publisher]
True Science Fiction
Un:Bound
Urban Fantasy Land
Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic
Variety SF
Walker of Worlds
Wanderings
Wands and Worlds
The Wertzone
With Intent to Commit Horror
WJ Fantasy Reviews
The World in a Satin Bag
WriteBlack
Young Adult Science Fiction

Foreign Language (other than English)

Cititor SF [Romanian, but with English Translation]

Elbakin.net [French]

Foundation of Krantas [Chinese (traditional)]

The SF Commonwealth Office in Taiwan [Chinese (traditional) with some English essays]

Yenchin’s Lair [Chinese (traditional)]

Interstellar [Danish]

Ommadawn.dk [Danish]

Scifisiden [Danish]

Aguarras [Brazilian, Portuguese]

Fernando Trevisan [Brazilian, Portuguese]

Human 2.0 [Brazilian, Portuguese]

Life and Times of a Talkative Bookworm [Brazilian, Porteguese]

Ponto De Convergencia [Brazilian, Portuguese]

pós-estranho [Brazilian, Portuguese]

Skavis [Brazilian, Portuguese]

Fantasy Seiten [German, Deustche]

Fantasy Buch [German, Deustche]

Literaturschock [German, Deustche]

Welt der fantasy [German, Deustche]

Bibliotheka Phantastika [German, Deustche]

SF Basar [German, Deustche]

Phantastick News [German, Deustche]

X-zine [German, Deustche]

Buchwum [German, Deustche]

Phantastick Couch [German, Deustche]

Wetterspitze [German, Deustche]

Fantasy News [German, Deustche]

Fantasy Faszination [German, Deustche]

Fantasy Guide [German, Deustche]

Zwergen Reich [German, Deustche]

Fiction Fantasy [German, Deustche]

2008 Bests: Music

I didn’t come across too much new music that really excited me this year; especially new items released in 2008.  While Metallica’s latest entry Death Magnetic was certainly hard hitting and leap years beyond their previous album it didn’t really capture my imagination.  Likewise Chinese Democracy was a huge letdown.  While that band is Guns n’ Roses it is GNR in name only.  The album tries to walk a little too close to the line between the glory of yesteryears and a modern sound; it never quite succeeds in either.

By a large 2008’s strongest release was by OpethWatershed is in my opinion one of the greatest progressive rock/metal albums of all time.  It is a carefully constructed piece of work full of soaring melodies and intricate features of intense musicianship.  If you’re at all a fan of metal, or progressive music, you should own this album.  By and large this is my favorite album of 2008 from a band that lacks real name recognition outside it’s genre; which is a shame since these guys are absolutely phenomenal.

Two albums that were constantly returning to my playlist this year were 2007 releases that I discovered in 2008.  Italian progressive metal band Raintime’s Flies & Lies offers a more synth-heavy approach than Opeth and manages to produce some staggeringly anthemic riffs including the heaviest cover of a Michael Jackson song you’ll ever hear.  I suppose Five Finger Death Punch are a thrash band but with definate leanings towards metalcore but their debut album, Way of the Fist, features some hard-hitting tracks with some seriously impressive drumming and an aggressive sound that is impossible to ignore.  That isn’t these guys only shtick as they were, for a while, doing a mini tour of Best Buys playing acoustic sets.  Their acoustic version of their single The Bleeding reveals a band as technically proficient and musically talented as any other veteran band on the metal scene.

2008 was also the year of the geek for me as I delved even further in the Geek music scene.  Newer video game bands eclipsed some of the older ones.  Minibosses while classic, cannot hold a candle to Powerglove and few video game bands have quite the range and sounds of jazz/funk/rock band the One-ups.  I also delved beyond the MC Frontalot level of the nerdcore scene, snatching up some of the RhymeTorrents compilations, and the advent of the Childs Play Benefit CD from Penny Arcade introduced me to Nerdcore rapper Beefy whose debut album Rolling Doubles features some smooth tracks.

All in all it was a good year on the music scene, though not a great one, but I look forward to a 2009 filled with many more awesome releases: God Forbid’s Earthsblood (2/29), Sepultura’s A-lex (1/26), Lamb of God’s Wrath (2/24), the JoCo concert DVD  just to name a few.  2009 looks to be a good year for the metal scene; here’s hoping at least.

2008 Bests: Comics

It was a year of “big events” for comics from the X-Men’s Messiah Complex, to Secret Invasion, to the still ongoing Final Crisis you couldn’t barely pick up a comic that wasn’t tied to some sort of major event.  This was, in my opinion, to the detriment of most comics involved.  In 2008 no comic was an island unto intself which was a shame for those of who love solid stories of superheroic shenanigans contained in one, or at most two, titles.  That being said 2008 was the year of sci-fi super-heroics for me and my most pleasurable reading moments were courtesy of  Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.

The Abnett/Lanning duo reinvigorated Marvel’s space heroes in 2006 with their Annihilation mini-series.  Spinning out of Annihilation was a Nova solo title and then sequel even Annihilation: Conquest.  Spanning 2007/2008 saw some more great work from the duo with characters who, while long established in the Marvel Universe, were by all rights completely new and exciting to read about.  Spinning out of Conquest is 2008’s best title Guardians of the Galaxy.

Guardians of the Galaxy follows a rag-tag band of heroes trying to seal rifts in the fabric of space-time.  Starlord, Gamora, Quasar, Mantis, Rocket Raccoon, Drax, and Groot don’t always get along but they somehow manage to work well together as a team.  Their base of operations is the hollowed out head of a Celestial, called Knowhere (and first seen in some of Abnett/Lannings earlier work) which means they get to interact with one of my favorite characters: Cosmo the intellegent and telepathic russian cosmonaut who heads up Knowhere’s security.

The Groot/Rocket Raccoon comedy due is pure genius.  Never did I think that three words could ever be so consistantly entertaining (those three words being “I am Groot!”).  Abnett/Lanning manage the twists and turns of an good sci-fi drama with deft hands and keen wit.  Paul Pelletier does a knockout job on the art.  I am particularly fond of the character designs and outfits of characters which walk the line between costume and uniform quite nicely by employing a uniform color scheme (black and red) with individual style.  Pelletier excells at big action scenes and doesn’t overly rely on huge splash pages and even manages to include some rather interesting panel compositions.  The series is packed full of action, drama, comedy and just plain awesome.  If you aren’t already reading this book now’s the time to jump as Abnett and Lanning gear of for their War of Kings event.

Honorable Mentions:  Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps are consistantly entertaining books and Geoff Johns and company are expanding the Lantern mythology in new and interesting ways.  Iconic writer Jim Starlin has had a great run on the recently cancelled Legion of Superheroes (issue 50 should be the last one).  Teen drama, superheroics, and sci-fi action all rolled up in the mythology of the DC Universe makes for some great reading.  The Superman titles tying in to the New Krypton arc are some great stuff as well, adding a dimension to the character that far eclipses any Superman title I’ve ever read.  Last, but certainly not least, Incredible Hercules is a fun take on a character who had a true standout solo title.  Much of the charm is due to teenage super-genius Amadeus Cho who manages to be great from both comic relief and actual help in the Prince of Power’s battles.

2008 Bests: Books

Science Fiction

It was a year filled with good science fiction books, some I read some I didn’t. But of everything I did read this year my favorite book was probably The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez. An over-the top action packed detective story with a wacky vibe, great humor and tons of fun. A quick read that took me just over a day few other books entertained me quite as much as this one. If wise cracking reformed evil robots turned detectives don’t suit your needs then: a.) something is wrong with you and b.) maybe you should check out Tobias Buckell’s Sly Mongoose which features, amongst a well realized and extraordinarily unique Caribbean influenced interstellar culture, a cyborg ninja fighting space zombies. And if that isn’t your cup of tea than I’m sorry, I can’t help you.

Fantasy

I didn’t read as much fantasy (or as much at all) as I would have liked this year and stuck mostly to new entries in long running series I follow. The standout title here is Joe Abercrombie’s final book in the First Law trilogy Last Argument of Kings. Abercrombie’s books are a little something new and little something old; wholly entertaining works that are full of fascinating genres and offer a unique twist on traditional fantasy tropes (the sword field barbarian, the impetuous youth, the scared veteran, the wizened wizard, and the quest for the powerful magical artifact to name a few) that defies convention but never stoops to mockery.

Runners-up include both of the latest Jim Butcher books, Small Favor and Princep’s Fury with the latter eclipsing the former in terms of sheer quality for the first time in both series’ history. Certainly, Steven Erikson’s latest Toll the Hounds was another worthy entry in the consummately excellent Malazan series and Ian Cameron Esselmont’s Retrun of the Crimson Guard was a serious improvement over his first novel Night of Knives.

Regrets

I missed out on a lot of good titles this last year and I think I’m going to be refocusing my upcoming reads accordance with that fact over the next few days (expect to see some changes on my sidebar). Brent Weeks’ Way of Shadows series has gotten some excellent buzz and I intend to check those titles out as soon as possible. Matthew Stover put out a new novel featuring Caine from Heroes Die called Caine Black Knife that I skipped since I haven’t been able to find the middle book Blade of Tyselle though I would have liked to have read it. Greg Keyes finished his Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series with The Born Queen, but since I have yet to read The Blood Knight (the penultimate volume) I skipped that too. Wizards of the Coast’s new imprint, Devil’s Cape and the Last Dragon, amongst many others from numerous publishers (series or standalone) that I wanted to read but just didn’t have the time and energy.

I’m perhaps most disappointed in that I’ve yet to find a horror novel as entertaining as David Wong’s John Dies at the End. I’ll keep looking, but it might be tough.

Resolution:
Read more books, or at least be more adamant about when and for how long I read. Stupid distractions.