Jamie Marriage

Jamie Marriage is an internationally published Australian cyberpunk author with a taste for the dangerous and obscene aspects of life. His work ranges from the sarcastic to the satirical. Links to his work can be found at https://jamiemarriage.wordpress.com/

 

Hoagn-shatteredPicking up from where Blood of Innocents left off Mitchell Hogan returns us to his chaotic realm of sorcery and subterfuge in book three of the Sorcery Ascendant Sequence; A Shattered Empire.

Familiar protagonists return in this blood-fueled third volume of Caldan’s life as he seeks to find a cure for his beloved Miranda; to free himself from the nefarious plans of the corrupt and sorcerous Emperor; and maybe even save the world from Kelhak, the man who brought destruction and death down upon the world in the most apocalyptic game imaginable.

The narrative is, like the previous volumes, split between protagonists and antagonists alike: Caldan, the once regal but now destitute Lady Felice, honourable and misjudged Aidan, homicidally insane Amerdan and more getting to tell their sides of the story. It reveals that in times of war and great confusion things are rarely black or white; in the end people will do what is necessary in order to survive or help those they care about. While others are using the time to accumulate power or practice their craft on a panicked populus.

All the elements of the game are now revealed to our young protagonist. Sorcerous warlocks demand his blood to extend their lives, violent Touched demand his loyalty unto death, and the creatures that seek to overrun humanity see him as little more as a distraction towards their ultimate victory.

A Shattered Empire is a master-crafted piece of world building, going deeply into historical backstory, character arcs and both technical and philosophical discussion as to how such a land and people develop. In doing so Hogan has answered so many questions that remain lodged in our minds since the A Crucible of Souls, such as what happened to Caldan’s parents? What is the purpose of the mysterious trinkets he carries? Can anyone truly be trusted? And is there any way he can save the world so that he and Miranda will be left in peace?

In this, the most deadly of games, all rules are going to be broken. The pieces are arranged, schemes and strategies plotted, each possible move a risky gamble that could lead to supremacy or disastrous defeat. In the game of Dominion there can only be one winner; but what if winning comes at too great a cost? Only Caldan can make that decision.

If he fails all that will be left is A Shattered Empire.

 

Bec Stafford

Bec Stafford has a Masters of Philosophy from the University of Queensland. She blogs and interviews for MDP Web and The Spotlight Report.

labyrinthcoverIt might surprise some readers to learn that Jim Henson’s extraordinary fantasy vision, Labyrinth, was a box office bomb. Released in 1986, it was the last feature film the creative giant would direct before his passing in 1990. Since then, however, the musical fantasy has attracted its own enormous fandom and now enjoys bona fide cult status. This year marks the film’s thirtieth anniversary and Insight Editions has compiled a lavishly illustrated and richly detailed hardback companion book that explores the creative process through the eyes of the costumers, designers, and artists whose combined efforts brought Henson’s dream to life. The gorgeous edition features a foreword by Toby Froud (who was cast in the role of baby Toby Williams and is the son of the film’s conceptual designer, Brian) and an introduction by Henson’s son, Brian, who is now the chairman of the Jim Henson Company.

The book is divided into four parts: Inspiration, Characterization, Realization, and Summation. The first section covers the project from a creative seed through to script writing and puppet making stages. Based on British fantasy illustrator Brian Froud’s concepts and executive-produced by George Lucas, Labyrinth’s original screenplay concept was delivered in the form of a type of ‘poetic novella’ by Canadian poet, Dennis Lee (Alligator Pie, Fraggle Rock). During its development, the script was to famously undergo several iterations (estimated at around twenty-five). The first screenplay was penned by Python luminary, Terry Jones, who admits that his ‘best contribution was just starting off something that the puppet-makers made much better and improved.’  Following Jones’ initial draft and some tweaking by Henson, Fraggle Rock writer, Laura Phillips, was recruited to rework the material until it was structurally sound and more closely aligned with the emotional journey Henson had envisaged. Further alterations were made by Jones and Phillips in turn refined his revisions. Still unsatisfied, Henson called upon renowned script doctor, Elaine May, (Heaven Can Wait, Reds, Tootsie), who worked quickly to add humanising touches that also resulted in the character of Sarah being more authentically rendered. The final script was dated April 11, 1985. Astonishingly, principal photography was to commence in London only four days later, on April 15.

The Characterization section covers each of the major players and kicks off with an overview of David Bowie’s character, Jareth the Goblin King. The section includes behind-the-scenes set shots of Bowie and Jennifer Connelly (Sarah Williams) interacting with fellow cast members, taking direction from Henson, and rehearsing scenes. Interesting detail is provided about the other actors who were also initially considered for these central characters, as well as the reasoning behind the final casting choices. The development of the ‘puppet creatures’ is explained, from concept art through to creation, manipulation, and effects.

The Realization section describes the elements involved in production and filming, from Henson’s Creature Shop workings, costume making, choreography, and performance through to soundtrack composition, photography, effects, and editing. Interviews with members of the cast and production team create a vivid history of the experience and reveal trivia, tidbits, and anecdotes that will fascinate fans. The challenges of shooting various sequences (Shaft of Hands; Bog of Eternal Stench; Ballroom Scene; Battle of the Goblins) are outlined in interview snippets from Brian Henson, who vividly recollects his time on set, George Lucas, Jennifer Connelly, production designer Elliot Scott, storyboard artist Martin Asbury, and other members of the creative team. Summation nicely rounds up the post-production details. George Lucas shares his recollections of editing the film, which he acknowledges as not being a ‘mainstream big hit’ but ‘a really good movie… a niche movie … eccentric’. Final touches, such as the opening and closing sequences involving the owl, are even explained in detail. The film’s initial reception, enduring popularity, and massive following are discussed, as are the untimely deaths of Henson and Bowie. Finally, Cheryl and Lisa Henson (Jim’s daughters), George Lucas, and Jennifer Connelly share touching recollections of working with Jim Henson and acknowledge his creative legacy.

This ‘ultimate visual history’ certainly lives up to its name. In addition to the countless sketches, still shots, costume photos, and concept art that fill every inch of its pages, the book is also filled with a wealth of removable plates that give it a unique scrapbook feel. These include costume sketches, production notes, script excerpts, staff memos, and storyboards. Unquestionably the definitive Labyrinth history, this 30th-anniversary release is an absolute must-have for fans of one of the best-loved fantasy films of all time. 

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History

Paula M. Block & Terry J. Erdmann

Foreword by Toby Froud

Introduction by Brian Henson

Insight Editions 18 October, 2016

192 pages

ISBN-10:1608878104
ISBN-13:978-1608878109

Joelene Pynnonen

Joelene Pynnonen embraces the life of an avid book lover in every way. Her household is ruled cruelly by a wrathful cat; and should a fire ever start it is doubtful that she would make it past the elegant stacks of novels to her room door. At least once a year she coerces her mother into watching the BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice with her, and will often follow up by re-reading the book.

kimberley-rat-city-cover-600wShannon Dane has tried to keep a low profile ever since his best friend died in an incident that Shannon might have prevented. When a gorgeous girl (Ally) from school approaches, asking him to give her brother a textbook, Shannon changes his mind about staying off the radar. At first he might only be hanging out with Felix to be closer to his hot sister, but things change.

Felix is a nerd and oddly emotional at times – as well as having weird hoarding tendencies – but he’s also loyal, insanely clever and interesting. Ally isn’t just gorgeous; she’s adventurous, astute and self-possessed. Best of all, neither Felix or Ally have any interest in the rumours surrounding the fate of Shannon’s dead best friend.

They have enough problems of their own. As Shannon moves further into their world, he begins to realise that they’ve got things going on that make his problems look tame. And Ally is afraid that if they don’t tackle the “issue”, it will grow into something that none of them can control.

Rat City is the debut Young Adult novel of Brisbane author, Ree Kimberley. As always, it’s lovely to read a local author. While Rat City isn’t specifically set in Brisbane, the novel does have a familiar Australian feel in the way characters speak and their interactions.

The novel plays with quite a few genres, most notably horror, sci-fi, romance and mystery. For me, the mystery side was a little lacking but the sci-fi and romance plot-lines are solid. It’s refreshing that Shannon doesn’t immediately drop everything to please Ally. That when she starts seriously considering breaking the law, he’s not willing to go along with it.

In the novel, Rat City is what Ally and Felix call their uncle’s dilapidated, rat-infested mansion. Considering the book title and the way the characters talk about the place, I was expecting that when the place made a proper appearance in the novel, it would be overwhelming. The atmospheric build up to Shannon’s foray into Rat City is done well. It makes the place seem dark and threatening. Not much of the novel takes place in Rat City though, and I think that this is quite a missed opportunity.

I adore rats, so the fact that the plot revolves around their intellect and resilience is a highlight. Their behavioural quirks are only touched on in Rat City, so hopefully it’s something that will be further explored in future novels.

While this is a Young Adult read, it’s certainly suitable for more advanced middle grade readers. It leaves the door wide open for a sequel, but doesn’t end on a cliff-hanger. With the crossed genres, this is sure to appeal to a wide variety of readers, so anyone looking for a new series should give this a go.

 

Rat City – Ree Kimberley

Pronoun Books (2016)

ISBN: 9780995387003

Awards

davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 

 

 

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