Bec Stafford

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

ac-complete-historyAssassin’s Creed: The Complete Visual History is quite simply one of the most visually stunning books I’ve ever held in my hands. Penned by gaming journo, Matthew Miller, this sumptuous hardback runs to a whopping 320 pages, most of which are filled with extraordinary artwork that you will want to revisit repeatedly. The franchise’s brand art director, Raphael Lacoste, has provided a short foreword in which he informs us that ‘Assassin’s Creed is about reimagining and reliving history, and with every instalment we aim to create plausible worlds and credible immersion for our fans.’ Fans of the game will already be familiar with just what an escapist’s wonderland Assassin’s Creed is, but this beautifully bound hardback takes the reader through the entire history of the game: its conception, development, characters, timelines, and historical inspirations.

Even before you open this mammoth hardback, the cover is likely to hold you transfixed for several moments with its embossing and arresting image of Ezio, head bowed, blades drawn – stark and dramatic against a pure white background. The comprehensive and jaw droppingly gorgeous concept art within is an absolute delight.

Many of the images have won design awards and make for fantastic posters or prints. The book also contains illuminating interviews with Ubisoft developers and artists who describe the complex planning and evolution behind the outrageously successful franchise. Every detail appears to be underpinned by an underlying philosophy that adds depth and dimension to this impressive artistic vision. Everything, from the logos and costume design through to the background rendering and architectural detail, has been thought through with the aim of preserving iconic design elements and intelligently enhancing the player’s immersion in the Assassin’s Creed universe.

 Assassins-Creed-The-Complete-Visual-History-03It has to be said that you don’t even have to be a gamer to appreciate the beauty of this Insight Editions publication. Designers, artists, history buffs, and anyone who simply appreciates beautiful illustration and art will become equally lost in this incredible world. The book is divided into 11 sections, the initial 9 being devoted to the various historical periods represented in the game, kicking off with the Middle Ages and working through the Renaissance, American Revolution and so forth, right through to the shorter Chronicles games, set in China, India, and Russia, and finally offering insight into the mysterious World Before. Following these info-packed, yet easy-to-read sections, we are presented with a chapter dedicated to the products and spin-offs inspired by the game, including cartoons, novels (and graphic novels), short films, and collectibles.

The background and genesis of each of the franchise’s assassins are explained in satisfying but never overwhelming detail, along with those of a number of secondary characters and adversaries/ Templars. It’s also fascinating to read about which historical characters were chosen to best serve the storyline and reflect each time period (e.g. Leonardo da Vinci, Nicolo Machiavelli, Paul Revere, and Ben Franklin). The planning behind each of the cities or settings throughout the franchise is also discussed and it has to be said that these reimagined historical places are every bit as fascinating and complex as the characters who inhabit them. Designers discuss having to narrow landmarks down, for example, in order to best represent an area (such as Paris) or having to deliberately add scaffolding to structures in order for characters to scale them. Elsewhere, details such as the shift from day to night throughout a game are described as being key features of the game’s realism. Each individual element has been cleverly engineered to spark our imagination in order that we may, as Lacoste states, ‘travel in time in order to discover epic locations and witness some of the world’s most pivotal moments in history.’

If you’re stuck for Christmas gift ideas this year, this release is highly recommended for fans of the game or anyone who appreciates an astonishingly beautiful coffee table art book.

Assassin’s Creed: The Complete Visual History – Matthew Miller

Insight Editions

320 Pages, hardback

Published 30th October, 2015

  • ISBN10 1608876004
  • ISBN13 9781608876006

 

Maria Ramos

Maria Violet is a writer interested in comic books, cycling, and horror films. Her hobbies include cooking, doodling, and finding local shops around the city. She currently lives in Chicago with her two pet turtles, Franklin and Roy..

scorch trials-maze_runner_2_concept_art_1What YA dystopian fiction doesn’t portray…

Dystopian fiction is designed to highlight societal and political shortcomings that could, if not corrected, lead to a less than ideal future. Historically aimed at a more mature audience, authors and filmmakers in recent years have nonetheless produced a number of books and film adaptations that target a young adult audience. These resulting materials have proven to show large profits and popularity at both book stores and box office.

jennifer-lawrence-katniss-everdeenWhile traditional dystopian fiction wouldn’t seem to appeal to the young adult demographic, many of the currently popular works, such as The Hunger Games trilogy, the Divergent series, the Maze Runner series, and others, utilize a protagonist who is close in age to the targeted audience in order to make him or her easier to relate to. Katniss, Tris, and Thomas are all described as being in the range of 16 or 17 years old, allowing an audience of similar age to, hopefully, feel a connection to them and to their challenges and struggles.

Unfortunately, while these novels contain plenty of references to what can happen when politics goes bad, there is a glaring hole in their reference to some of the very real problems in existence today, problems such as racism and sexism. I mean, these issues are not likely to miraculously disappear when some bigger global crisis comes along. And yet, that seems to be exactly what we’re expected to believe when either reading or watching these dystopian stories.

A dystopia is what occurs when the world falls to pieces and society’s very real problems are pushed to an extreme. This can be be portrayed in many ways: leading to some form of oppression such as mind control like that found in Divergent and Insurgent, which can both be streamed on Amazon or DTV, or through more direct and brutal means such as the yearly battle to the death in The Hunger Games. However, when society’s real world issues of racism and racial inequality are (at best) downplayed and (at worst) ignored, the risk is very real that entire segments of current society will ignore and/or condemn the books and films that Hollywood is hoping will draw them in.

insurgentFurther, while these novels and films are offering up more in the way of female protagonists, the girls in question more often than not succeed due to their ability to act more like their male counterparts rather than less. They compete on the same level and without any mention of historical inequalities that have beleaguered them i.e. their assumed inferiority, or their being supposedly the weaker sex.

In the Divergent series in particular, we’re led to believe that the powers that be following a catastrophic global event of some sort set up a system where human beings are segregated and identified by faction only. And yet, even recent history has repeatedly shown that we as a people tend to divide along lines of both race and gender when hit with a crisis situation.

On the positive side, some of these novels do a fairly decent job of describing what could happen if, for example, our current environmental issues are left unchecked. This is particularly true for a series such as The Maze Runner, and is especially emphasized in The Scorch Trials, the second film to be adapted from the second novel in the trilogy and in which the Earth has become a desert wasteland. However, leaving out other equally important issues leaves the entire genre feeling a little incomplete.

If this particular subgenre of young adult fiction wishes to continue drawing in the widest audience possible, it’s time that the writers and filmmakers alike consider embracing more diversity within the material they present. Otherwise, they may find that both their popularity and their profits are short lived.

 

Bec Stafford

Bec Stafford has a Masters of Philosophy from the University of Queensland. She also blogs and interviews for the Escape Club and edits content for The Spotlight Report.

Jamieson_Day Boy CoverAurealis award-winning author, Trent Jamieson, is one of the brightest lights on the Australian speculative fiction scene. Set in Brisbane, his brilliant Death Works series received widespread praise, firmly establishing his reputation as an engaging and original storyteller. His latest release, Day Boy, is a Young Adult rites-of-passage tale that makes for a page turner from start to finish. In this reimagining of the vampire myth (though it’s much more than that), Jamieson assembles an intriguing cast of memorable characters. The central protagonist, Mark, is a Day Boy, assigned to a Master, the mysterious Dain, whom he protects and serves. Mark’s life in post-apocalyptic Midfield is tough – he’s a plucky, defiant boy caught up in a complex web of fearsome, unpredictable immortals and often even more treacherous mortals. Along with his fellow Day Boys, Mark must navigate his way through an unforgiving present towards an uncertain destiny; and, under Dain’s unlikely apprenticeship, Mark’s character is further shaped.

The story is finely written and filled with a combination of gritty reality and nail-nibbling suspense. Jamieson breathes life into his characters with the deftness of someone at the top of their game. The dialogue is a delight – authentic and engaging. The boys’ banter is filled with the hallmarks of adolescent exchanges: brash challenges and snappy retorts. And Mark’s own internal dialogue is used to propel the narrative forward with sure-footed control. His world view is shaped by strong principles, great empathy for his fellow townsfolk, and an inner fortitude that occasionally seems to surprise even him. Facing perils at every turn, Mark displays great integrity, whether facing off against another Day Boy, ministering to Dain, or being confronted by the terrifying (and chillingly named) Council of Teeth following an indiscretion in the City in the Shadow of the Mountain.

Jamieson demonstrates a great gift for expressing his characters’ emotions. He beautifully captures, for instance, the tender feelings Mark harbours for one of his allies, Anne, with a sweetness that never strays into schmaltz. Observing her playing the piano, he notes, ‘I never know what it is she’s playing and the names wash off me to forgetfulness when she tells me, but I know the beauty that is the perfect expression of nature’s gifts and effort, and I hear it in her playing, and that’s enough.’ Although compact and unpretentious, the writing is tinged by a touching lyricism. When at one point he finds himself at the end of a machete, Mark describes feeling ‘its longing, the yearning to sink into flesh, to cut and carve its frustrations’ into him.

Finally, what makes Day Boy such a pleasure to read – and for my money, this is Jamieson’s most engrossing and emotionally resonant work to date – is its artful presentation of a range of philosophical questions and reflections to consider while we’re being entertained. What constitutes the monstrous? What does it take to become a man? What are the consequences of our choices when it comes to love, destiny, and duty? This is a story for adults as much as it is for a younger audience. Existing fans of Trent Jamieson’s writing will feel richly rewarded by this novel, which is also guaranteed to win him many, many new readers. Highly recommended.


http://www.trentjamieson.com/

Paperback, 309 pages

Published June 24th 2015 by Text Publishing (first published 2015)

ISBN13 9781922182838

 

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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