Thursday 31 May 2012

NEWS: Deja Review

Hail Mighty Readers,
Here's this months round up of previously reviewed titles that have either been released in PB format or have undergone new binding/artwork. (Covers in review may differ from current incarnation.)

This month you'll find:
10/05/12 HAMILTON, Peter F - Manhattan in Reverse

24/05/12 SCOTT, Manda - Rome: The Coming of the King 
24/05/12 SIDEBOTTOM, Harry - The Caspian Gates

If we've missed one please let us know,

Wednesday 30 May 2012

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Doom 3:BFG Edtion Announced for Xbox 360, PS3 and Other Formats - Bethesda

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Bethesda have let us know that they're revamping and releasing Doom 3: BFG Edition for the Xbox 360 and PS3.  Here's what they had to say:

"Bethesda Softworks®, a ZeniMax® Media company, today announced that DOOM® 3 BFG Edition will be available this Autumn and features DOOM® 3 and the Resurrection of Evil® add-on pack, both of which have been completely re-mastered. The package also includes hours of new content – seven new levels entitled ‘The Lost Mission’.  DOOM 3 BFG Edition is slated for release for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PC and PlayStation® 3 – making it the first time any DOOM game has ever appeared on the PlayStation 3.

Re-mastered for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, this genre defining game and its add-on pack offers greatly enhanced graphics, deeply immersing the player in the demonic world of this terrifying horror masterpiece. Players will also experience a never-before-seen single-player story, ‘The Lost Mission’ featuring seven heart-pounding levels that will once again have them on the edge of their seats.

DOOM 3, Resurrection of Evil, and ‘The Lost Mission’ have been optimized in 3D, featuring 5.1 surround sound, Xbox 360 Achievements, PlayStation 3 trophies, improved rendering and lighting, and a new check point save system allowing for smoother progression through the game. id® Software has fine-tuned the controls to bring the intensity of the DOOM single and multiplayer experience to the consoles, and DOOM 3 now features the new armour-mounted flashlight, allowing players to illuminate dark corners and blast enemies at the same time.

“DOOM 3 was enthusiastically embraced by gamers worldwide at its release,” said John Carmack, Technical Director at id Software. “Today, the full experience has been enhanced and extended to be better than ever, and is delivered across all the platforms with a silky smooth frame rate and highly responsive controls.  New support for 3D TVs, monitors, and head mounted displays also allows players to experience the game with more depth than ever before. We think shooter fans everywhere will love it.”


As a special bonus, DOOM 3 BFG Edition will also include the original DOOM® and DOOM® 2 games, making it the definitive collection of the revolutionary games developed by id Software,  the studio that pioneered the first-person shooter genre."

To keep up to date and join the fight visit thier Facebook Page.

FACTUAL REVIEW: The Science of Avatar - Stephen Baxter

Release Date: 03/05/12


James Cameron's Avatar is the biggest movie of all time. Now the movie's legendary director has leant his support to an exploration of the world of Pandora with bestselling science-fiction author Stephen Baxter. From journeys into deep space to anti-gravity unobtanium, from Pandora's extraordinary flora and fauna to transferring consciousness, Baxter and Cameron reveal that we are often closer to world of Avatar than we might imagine. Stephen Baxter is the master of 'what-if?' science fiction. In THE SCIENCE OF AVATAR he's written a book that will appeal to fans of both science-fiction and popular science. THE SCIENCE OF AVATAR will offer fans the unique opportunity to explore the spectacular world of Pandora, from the creator himself.


To be honest this is a book I’ve waited quite some time for as it originally appeared on my radar a couple of years ago. Sadly due to constraints its taken its time to come to the fore but now its released I was left wondering if the wait was worth it or whether its more of a cash in than anything else.

What this book does more than anything else is explore the believability of Cameron’s world and whilst at times it has problems with the creation, what Stephen does is bring the complexities of world building to the reader whilst picking out what does and doesn’t work on a basic level. Its interesting, its presented in an easy to understand manner and of course for me as a reader I love to find out what has real possibilities. Likewise if you are a writer, setting out to create your own world, this is a useful guide to help you work out what does and doesn’t work for you to help make your own world ideal fantasy/sci-fi fodder.

All in a solid book and whilst it won’t appeal to everyone, it’s a great title to own if you’re interested in believability as well as how you’d go about constructing something special. Great stuff.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Into the Valley of Death - A L Berridge

Release Date: 10/05/12


It's 1854 - The Allied armies prepare to besiege the Russian stronghold in the Crimea. Harry Ryder is a maverick hero. Resentful of the army that destroyed his father and his own career, he has no time for incompetent commanders. He clashes with his superiors as fiercely as he fights the Russians. Four men, one woman and a game of cards will change everything and alter the course of a war. Something evil has crept into the ranks of the British Army's own officers, an unknown enemy who plans lure men to ruin on the battlefields. The only path to victory lies in uncovering the truth, but to find it and confront his own destiny Ryder must charge with the Light Brigade into the Valley of Death itself...


Alison has been a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine since I embarked on her adventures with Chevalier de Roland and whilst I know that many writers in a genre love to jump around in time, I’m always left wondering if they’ve bitten off a bit more than they can chew when any new work is going to be instantly compared to what has gone before with differing results.

What this title does is follow a new hero (Harry Ryder) into the fray and infamous Charge of the Light Brigade which had it succeeded would have been one of the greatest manoeuvres of all time. The prose is sharp with a galloping pace and when added to Alison’s unique writing style and voice alongside wonderfully detailed research, give the reader a story that will stay with them for quite some time. All in this was a marvellous read all round and one that for me demonstrates that she is here to stay.

Monday 28 May 2012

GUEST BLOG: The Eagle of the Ninth and the Roman Legions in Fiction - Manda Scott

To celebrate the release of her cracking third Rome novel (The Eagle of the Twelfth, out now), Manda Scott was kind enough to drop by and write a piece about The Eagle of the Ninth and th Roman Legions in Fiction and what inspired many writers of the genre. As such we're proud to bring this to you alongside our review of her new novel. So without further ado, Manda Scott....

The Eagle of the Ninth.... Whatever you thought of the film, for many of us, Rosemary Sutcliff's groundbreaking novel was what brought us here, to this place where the past comes alive - where we want it to come alive, where we want to explore all that happened insofar as we can, knowing our limitations, the inevitable anachronisms, the many gaps.

I first read Eagle when I was eight years old and there is no question but that it changed the course of my life. It wasn’t so much the legions that grabbed me then – let’s face it, the Ninth marches off into the mist and everyone concerned seems to think it’s good riddance when it doesn’t come back – but I lost myself in the tales of Esca and Cub and the wonder of the Seal People and spent the intervening years trying to work out what they did when the Romans weren’t around. The Boudica novels are the result; my effort to fill in the gaps in Sutcliff’s narrative even if I had lost touch with what drove me there in the first place.

And then one day years later, I turned a page in Josephus and found another lost Eagle. It’s not quite the same as discovering the historical basis for Christ (three different men, whose stories have been woven into one, since you ask), but it was a red letter day in any historical writers’ life.

Because the point is, the Eagle of the Ninth was never truly lost: Sutcliff got her idea, as so many of us do, from a news report; in this case, of a wingless legionary eagle that had just been found beneath an altar in Britain. She welded that to the supposed ‘loss’ of the Ninth legion and created the wonder we all know and love and the fact that later work showed that the Ninth had never been lost at all, doesn’t detract from the greatness of what she did, any more than does the fact that later work has shown her concepts of legionary and auxiliary armour to be faulty: She wrote with the best information she had at the time and the result was sheer magic.

So to find a real lost Eagle with a known history about it… Few things come better than that.

The known history of the Twelfth legion is patchy, but its notoriety as the unluckiest legion in the Roman Army means there’s enough data to keep everyone happy. We know the early postings, the early commanders, the monumental strategic blunders that led to the ultimate disgrace when the entire legion, such as survived, was forced to give up its weapons and walk under the yoke of raised spears held by the victorious Parthian army under Vologases, King of Kings. From a Roman perspective, it would have been better that the legion had died to a man and the Eagle been taken than that.

And so a handful of years later, when the ranks had been rebuilt and yet another inanely incompetent commander had brought them yet again to the brink of ruin, this time in the first siege of Jerusalem, it’s not at all surprising that four hundred men volunteered to remain behind and run a night’s disinformation, to let their comrades escape under cover of darkness.

At the site of the battle of Beth Horon, they kindled enough fires for a legion and kept them burning through the night and it was only come dawn that the vengeful Hebrew army under one of the grandsons of Yehuda realized that the bulk of the Roman army had left. They took out their vengeance on the four hundred legionaries and centurions left behind. Jospehus says they died to a man, and the Eagle was taken. Tacitus more or less agrees.

Neither of these ancient writers says anything at all about the Eagle’s being recovered – but they both attest that the Twelfth was part of Vespasian’s army when he returned in the next year to destroy the nascent Israel… which means the Eagle must have been recovered because that was the deal: If the Eagle lives, the legion lives. If the Eagle is lost or destroyed, as was the case with Varus’ three armies on the Rhine, then the legion dies, and all surviving men are posted into other legions.

And so we have an Eagle lost in known circumstances of utmost heroism and no clue at all as to how it was recovered; only the certainty that it must have been. It’s a fiction writers’ gift, all the greater for a writer who venerates Rosemary Sutcliff.

To do it justice meant months of research into the practical and emotional guts of a legion - or a platoon, or a brigade or a regiment. For those who want to know more on each of these, I can thoroughly recommend ‘The Junior Officer’s Reading Club’ by Patrick Hennessey, ‘Quartered Safe out Here’ by George Mackay Brown and ‘Dead Men Risen’ by Toby Harnden as well as the memoirs of Robert Graves and Rudyard Kipling. While the machinery of warfare becomes ever more intricate and the killing ever more distant, there’s a coherent thread that unites armies down the ages; when a man has saved your life in battle, the bond between you is as strong as any other human relationship.

As Patrick Hennessey says of a full 24 hours spent pinned down on the corrugated iron roof of a hut with only his sergeant and his rifle for company, ‘How was I ever going to tell the people who mattered to me most, that nothing in the world will ever matter as much as that did?’
How, as a fiction writers, do we convey the absolute aliveness that comes with the absolute proximity of death? How do we bring the reader to know the intimacy of battle, the rawness, the compassion, the courage, the solidarity of honour, the fact that down the ages, men have said that their greatest fear is not of dying, but of letting down the others who depend on them?

It’s the challenge and it’s the joy and it is what I have tried to achieve in ‘Rome: The Eagle of the Twelfth.’
Rosemary Sutcliff was the best and the greatest, but those of us who follow in her footsteps can do our utmost to live up to the standard she left behind.

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Rome: The Eagle of the Twelfth - Manda Scott

Release Date: 24/05/12


They are known as the Legion of the Damned...Throughout the Roman Army, the Twelth Legion is notorious for its ill fortune. It faces the harshest of postings, the toughest of campaigns, the most vicious of opponents. For one young man, Demalion of Macedon, joining it will be a baptism of fire. And yet, amid all of the violence and savagery of his life as a legionary, he realises he has discovered a vocation - as a soldier and a leader of men. He has come to love the Twelth and all the bloody-minded, dark-hearted soldiers he calls his brothers. But all that he cares about is ripped from him when, during the brutal Judaean campaign, the Hebrew army inflict a catastrophic defeat upon the legion - not only decimating their ranks, but taking away their soul - the eagle. There is one final chance to save the legion's honour - to steal back the eagle. To do that, Demalion and his legionnaries must go undercover into the city of Jerusalem, into the very heart of their enemy, where discovery will mean the worst of deaths, if they are to recover their pride. And that, in itself, is a task worthy only of heroes.


For me Manda Scott is a dark horse with each new project that she turns out. Yes you know roughly what you’re going to get but there are times when her brilliance shines through and I felt it first with her Boudicca saga and again with the first Rome novel, but this one shines the greatest for me as a reader.

I loved the fact that you got the feeling of marching with the legion, the down and dirty tactics that allowed Rome to rule most of the civilised world and when you add to this sharp prose, a solid supporting cast and of course masters understanding of pace, you know that you’re going to be in for something special.

Add to this a lead character that not only inspires the reader but demonstrates how, though hard work alongside natural ability that he’s got the very makings of a soldier without having to go for an off the peg hero. It’s dark, it gets down in the dirt and when you add the authors writing style that leads you through the shadows to the conclusion, its very hard to find a title that’s going to stand out against this one this year. Definitely a must read for any historical fiction fan, but when you add a guarantee to the cover like Transworld have done, you know that they’ve confident of their product and really should give it a fair chance. For me, this is a book that I think will win some of the laurels this year for best historical fiction, so get in first and get in now before the hype hits.

Sunday 27 May 2012

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Warhammer 40K: Ultramarines: The Second Omnibus - Graham McNeill

Release Date: 24/05/12


The Ultramarines have been the honourable cornerstone of the Adeptus Astartes throughout their ten thousand year history. Captain Uriel Ventris fights to prove that he is worthy to return to the hallowed ranks of the Chapter after his exile to the Eye of Terror, and that he is free of the insidious taint of Chaos. But as the Iron Warriors move against Ultramar, a grim premonition comes to light: Ventris will have a part to play in the coming war, for good or ill.


The new compendium and value for money title featuring more of the Ultramarines in this, the second title. Its full of action with gripping close combat and bolter fire which when backed with a great lead character alongside a superb supporting cast, goes to demonstrate why Graham’s Ultramarines have been a sure hit with fans since the books original release.

Add to this wonderful stories, pyrrhic victories alongside the glorification of the chapter and when added to gripping arcs alongside top notch combat makes this a book that if you don’t own them already, is very hard to ignore. Great stuff.

Saturday 26 May 2012

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Triggers - Robert J Sawyer

Release Date: 26/05/12


The president of the United States is shot in the head by a would-be assassin. Rushed to hospital and barely saved from death, he discovers that he has new memories - memories that are not his own. A scientific experiment has gone awry, and a small group of people now remember each other's lives. And when one of those people's lives involved access to the most secret and dangerous information in the world, everything will change.


I’ve read a lot of Roberts work since he blasted onto the scene (or rather my scene with Flashforward), it’s always been wonderfully constructed, has a realm of believability about it and when added to his characters made compulsive Sci-Fi reading for me.

So I was a little disappointed with this title that I felt was flat and didn’t quite follow through on a lot of the idea’s within. Don’t get me wrong, the pace was there, the prose reasonable but the overall concept felt like it fell flat on its face more than once within the pages almost as if this was a short story extended way beyond its timeline.

All in, whilst I do love Robert’s writing, this isn’t one that I’d recommend to others looking to try him for the first time and I suspect a number of fans will feel the same way. That said, everyone is entitled to an off day so here’s hoping it picks up with the next one.

Friday 25 May 2012

FANTASY REVIEW: Empire of Saviours - AJ Dalton

Release Date: 17/05/12


In the Empire of the Saviours, the People are forced to live in fortified towns. Their walls are guarded by an army of Heroes, whose task is to keep marauding pagans out as much as it is to keep the People inside. Several times a year, living Saints visit the towns to exact the Saviours' tithe from all those coming of age - a tithe often paid in blood. When a young boy, Jillan, unleashes pagan magicks in an accident, his whole town turns against him. He goes on the run, but what hope can there be when the Saviours and the entire Empire decide he must be caught? Jillan is initially hunted by just the soldiers of the Saint of his region, but others soon begin to hear of his increasing power and seek to use him for their own ends. Some want Jillan to join the fight against the Empire, others wish to steal his power for themselves and others still want Jillan to lead them to the Geas, the source of all life and power in the world. There are very few Jillan can trust, except for a ragtag group of outcasts. His parents threatened, his life in tatters, his beliefs shaken to the core, Jillan must decide which side he is on, and whether to fight or run ...


This new title from Gollancz to me is pretty much standard fantasy fare as it falls back on the old stereotype of the older generation helping the younger come to terms with events and their own powers whilst fighting the good fight. Whilst for many this is a typical fantasy story, what does differ is a cast of misfits drawn together as they seek to achieve their goal, they fight for page space and the reader’s attention and at times it’s hard to know who you want to spend more time with.

Add to this reasonable prose and pace which makes this a solid read. The major downside for me was the spending of too much time on religion and whilst I can understand that it was necessary for the plot, it’s not the type of thing I like to spend my time dissecting or having referenced in such detail. Finally add to this a world that is carefully constructed with a wonderful concept behind and all in it was a solid enough read to announce AJ to the world.

Thursday 24 May 2012

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Metro: Last Light - THQ

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at THQ, have let us know about a trailer announcing a short film about The Metro.  

Released on 1st August the latest game in the franchise (the first, Metro 2033, based on the novel by Dmitri Glukhovsky,) the player is thrust into the post apocalyptic world.  For more news and to keep up to date please visit Enter the Metro.

Game Info:
Beneath the ruins of post-apocalyptic Moscow, in the crumbling Metro tunnels, you hold the key to humanity’s survival - the last light in our darkest hour.... It is the year 2034. Beneath the ruins of post-apocalyptic Moscow, in the tunnels of the Metro, the remnants of mankind are besieged by deadly threats from outside - and within. Mutants stalk the catacombs beneath the desolate surface, and hunt amidst the poisoned skies above. But rather than stand united, the station-cities of the Metro are locked in a struggle for the ultimate power, a doomsday device from the military vaults of D6. A civil war is stirring that could wipe humanity from the face of the earth forever. As Artyom, burdened by guilt but driven by hope, you hold the key to our survival - the last light in our darkest hour...     * A gripping, story-driven first person shooter, Metro: Last Light is the hugely anticipated sequel to 2010’s critically acclaimed classic Metro 2033     * Experience thrilling combat with an exotic arsenal of hand-made weaponry against deadly foes - both human and mutant - and use stealth to launch attacks under the cover of darkness     * Explore the post-apocalyptic world of the Moscow Metro, one of the most immersive, atmospheric game worlds ever created     * Fight for every bullet and every last breath in a claustrophobic blend of survival horror and FPS gameplay     * Next generation technology boasting stunning lighting and physics sets a new graphical benchmark on both console and PC     * Wage post-apocalyptic warfare online, as Last Light delivers an intense multiplayer experience amongst the dark Russian ruins

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Warhammer 40K: Horus Heresy: The Primarchs - Ed. Christian Dunn

Release Date: 24/05/12


Created in the Emperor’s own image, the primarchs had long thought themselves to be princes of the universe and masters of their own destiny – they led the Space Marine Legions in glorious conquest of the galaxy, and no enemy of the Imperium could stand against them. However, even amongst this legendary brotherhood, the seeds of dissent had been sown long before the treacherous Warmaster Horus declared his grand heresy.


I’m a massive reader of the Warhammer 40K titles so when I had the chance to get to know the originators and Primarchs of the Emperor’s Legions I really couldn’t wait to get my hands on the book. What unfurls within is a series of four short stories written by some of the top talent at Black Library, Each has their own benefits and strengths and also their weaknesses within the text.

Whilst I did enjoy the tales, I wanted something that separated these venerable warriors from the masses that were to follow in their name, I wanted tales of inspirational history that demonstrated why the Space Marines would each lay down their lives in the battle for the Emperor and of course I wanted something that really grabbed firmly from start to finish without giving you chance to breath.

What I got did do this to a certain degree but in my opinion I feel that the writers had to hold something back purely for the fact that these warriors were the originators, and whilst I felt that they did fulfil their brief I think that for me the fear of filling these boots of the Astates “God” were mighty big to fill.

All in it was a solid read and I did enjoy it despite my niggles. But for me, the best tale was saga of Alpharius and Omegon. Great stuff.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Half Sick of Shadows - David Logan

Release Date: 10/05/12


On the eve of Granny Hazel's burial in the back garden, a stranger in his time machine - a machine that bears an uncanny resemblance to a Morris Minor - visits five year-old Edward with a strange request. And Edward agrees to be his friend. But Edward is not alone in the world. His twin sister Sophia is about to bring future tragedy upon herself through an all-too-literal misunderstanding of a promise she's made to their father. So while Sophia stays at home, seemingly condemned to spend the rest of her days in The Manse - a world untouched by modern trappings - Edward is sent to boarding school. There he encounters the kind and the not-so-kind, and meets the strangest child. His name is Alf, and Alf is a boy whose very existence would seem to hint at universes of unlimited possibilities ...and who might one day help Edward liberate Sophia. With its Gothic backdrop, "Half-Sick of Shadows" is a novel of many parts: at once a comical tragedy, a dark and dazzlingly told tale of childhood wonder and dismay, of familial dysfunction, of poetry, the imagination and theoretical physics.


Having won the Anywhere but Here, Anywhere but Now Award in its inaugural year (alongside Michael Logan) I was expecting high things from this title. After all not only did they slash their way through the masses but to be backed by an Award Winning Author like Terry Pratchett, then you can only think that the talent must be some of the best out there of the next generation.

Sadly for me, I felt that this title lost its way after a cracking beginning. Don’t get me wrong, the lead character Edward was engaging, I liked the multifaceted complications of his life and the way that you could associate with him, but in parts it felt that the author lost the chain of thought as to the arc or was bulking out just to reach the word length, which I found detracted from the tale for me. With luck, the subsequent planned titles will fix this error and work harder on keeping the arc tight but if they don’t then this winner may find his career cut short.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Braveheart Chronicles: Rebel - Jack Whyte

Release Date: 10/05/12


A.D.1305. An hour before dawn. London's Smithfield prison. In a dank cell, the outlaw William Wallace waits to be executed at first light. He is visited by a Scottish priest who has come to hear his last confession - the confession of a life even more exciting, violent and astonishing than the legend that survived. From internationally bestselling author Jack Whyte comes a story of brutal battles and high adventure, of heroism and redemption - the story of William Wallace as the world has never heard it before.


When you decide to write a book about one of Scotland’s heroes you’re heading into dangerous territory as first of all you have those who love Gibson’s Braveheart and another band of Scots who believe that he quartered a national hero nearly 7 Centuries after the English did the same to the original.

What this story by Jack Whyte does is cut though a lot of the myth and presents a historical fiction story that contains all the elements that readers love, first of all you have action and second of all a human element that allows the reader to associate with the characters within.

All in the story is cleverly crafted and for an opening novel of a trilogy its one that really does stand out as a wonderful piece of fiction. Add to this solid pace, decent dialogue as well as a solid arc and all it for me, it was a novel that I’ll reread before starting the second instalment.

Monday 21 May 2012

DVD REVIEW: The Darkest Hour - Emile Hirsch, Rachael Taylor, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella, Joel Kinnaman

Release Date: 21/05/12


The Darkest Hour follows five young people who find themselves stranded in Moscow, following an unexplained global disaster and fighting to survive in the wake of a devastating alien attack… This sci-fi thriller highlights the classic beauty of Moscow alongside mind-blowing special effects from the genius of legendary film-maker Timur Bekmanbetov (Wanted and Night Watch).


Like a great many people I tend to make a note of films that interest me but ones that I’m not 100% sure are worth the price of admission to the cinema to see, as such I have a whiteboard with films that I like the look of and wait for the DVD or if I’m really not sure, wait for the DVD to go down to a fiver before spending my money on it.

What attracted me to “The Darkest Hour” was the concept of invisible aliens that kill through disintegrating and can only be tracked through the activation of electrical items that power up when they’re near. It was interesting, it was set in Russia and for me, a film that relies on a relatively small cast to draw the reader in is usually something that works very well for me as a viewer. Alas this is the crutch of the film as for me, I didn’t find the cast believable. The acting was dire they didn’t bring the fear over and sadly with the acting being very wooden, it left me feeling short changed. Don’t get me wrong, the film had solid effects, a decent premise and of course a familiar road to travel for the viewer, but with dire acting, it left the viewer wondering why they should readily care about them.

Sadly this was the films downfall for me and whilst I did find it entertaining for an evening, I wouldn’t pay full price for it.

Sunday 20 May 2012

Science Fiction Audio Book Review: Eye of Vengeance - Graham McNeill, Narrated by Sean Barrett, performed by Rupert Degas and Saul Reichlin

Release Date: 07/05/12


When the twisted Dark Mechanicus priests of the Bloodborn descend upon Quintarn, the Ultramarines are quick to move in defence of their prized agri-world. However, it soon becomes apparent that the planet’s fate will not be decided by the massed battle companies of the Space Marines, but by the actions of just one lowly sergeant – Torias Telion. A master marksman and Scout with a long history of service to the Chapter, Telion must now face the worst of the Bloodborn’s technological terrors and secure the city of Idrisia from the enemy advance, if the Ultramarines are to have any hope of prevailing against an enemy whose numbers swell with every victory.


Another cracking audio book that brings together cracking vocal acting talent with the writing skills of Graham McNeill which presents the listener with a high octane story. As with the other audio titles its entertaining and will make a wonderful addition to any fans of the blood battlefield that are fighting it out on the table-top.

Add to this that it’s a great way to spend any kind of journey, will add extra layers to the Ultramarines and also give them a story of honour, bravery alongside a high cost victory which all in, will demonstrate that the audio books are going from strength to strength.

Saturday 19 May 2012

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Space Marine Battles 9: Architect of Fate - Sarah Cawkwell, Ben Counter, Darius Hinks, John French, Ed. Christian Dunn

Release Date: 07/05/12


The Space Marines stand against the darkness, and yet on countless battlefields they play unwitting roles in the schemes of Fateweaver. From the doomed world of Ilissus, through the embattled corridors of the Endeavour of Will, to the borders of the Eye of Terror itself – friend and foe alike follow the great plan that he set in motion many thousands of years ago. But not even the Architect of Fate himself can foresee the destiny that lies in wait for him...


Fans of the Warhammer 40K Universe will be in for a treat with this compendium of tales that bring elements from throughout the worlds within them. Its wonderfully woven, with the various elements all touching on a greater truth that only unveils itself after the final page is turned.

Each author has worked well in conjunction with the others yet managed to bring their own styles and storytelling skills to the piece. Its dark, its brooding and as usual there is the sheer exhilaration of combat that’s both shocking in its bloody conflict as well as brutally blunt as it unveils. All in definitely something a little different but wonderful at the same time and it’ll be interesting to see how many other books come together in this successful format.

Friday 18 May 2012

FANTASY REVIEW: The Dagger and the Coin 2: The King's Blood - Daniel Abraham

Release Date: 03/05/12


War casts its shadow over the lands that the dragons once ruled. Only the courage of a young woman with the mind of a gambler and loyalty to no one stands between hope and universal darkness. The high and powerful will fall, the despised and broken shall rise up and everything will be remade. And an old, broken-hearted warrior and an apostate priest will begin a terrible journey with an impossible goal: destroy a Goddess before she eats the world.


I’ve been a fan of Daniel’s writing style for quite a while now and to be honest when I know that theres a new one coming out, I’m not only demanding it for myself but I’ve also got that fantasy monster that introduced me to the genre hanging on out to get his paws upon the text as soon as possible. (Yep that was my Dad in case you needed to know. LOL)

Why? Well Daniel’s writing style is addictive with its wonderful use of characters, politics and of course prose as it brings the reader deeper within his world to see events as they unfurl. Its fast paced, fascinating and with the machinations and character developments within the text makes this a tale to fully savour and enjoy over the nights, possibly with your favourite tipple. Great stuff all in.

Thursday 17 May 2012

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Darksiders 2: Death Strikes Part 2 - THQ

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at THQ have let us know about the second part to the Death Lives Trailer that went live yesterday.

Having been left with bated breath and whetted appetite we couldn't wait to see how Death would handle the Mighty Foe and what can we say but we weren't disappointed.

Lady Eleanor as we speak is currently working her way through the original Darksiders, to be all ready for this new adventure and can't wait to finish sorting the wheat from the chaff in August.

All the best and hope you enjoy it,

Gareth and Lady Eleanor

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Game of Thrones Release Date - Koch Media and Cyanide

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Having taken the time to capture the Spider and Littlefingers spies, we've found out the date for the release of the forthcoming Game of Thrones title from our friends at Koch Media and Cyanide.

Sharpen those Swords, polish that armour, loose the clarion call and prepare for warfare on the 8th June. 

We'll prepare to meet you on the field of honour with Lady Eleanor all set to massacre her way through the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.  So whether you're Lanister, Stark, Baratheon or a Neutral, prepare to meet your doom on an epic scale...

FANTASY REVIEW: Dreamblood 1/2: The Killing Moon - NK Jemisin

Release Date: 03/05/12


In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers - the keepers of this peace. Priests of the dream-goddess, their duty is to harvest the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to heal, soothe ...and kill those judged corrupt. But when a conspiracy blooms within Gujaareh's great temple, Ehiru - the most famous of the city's Gatherers - must question everything he knows. Someone, or something, is murdering innocent dreamers in the goddess' name, stalking its prey both in Gujaareh's alleys and the realm of dreams. Ehiru must now protect the woman he was sent to kill - or watch the city be devoured by war and forbidden magic.


Having fallen for NK’s writing style in her previous series, I was more than interested to see what she’d come up with in a new saga altogether. After all following on from a successful story is not only a daunting prospect for the author but for the reader who will unscrupulously compare the two to check that the qualities that they fell in love with are within this latest release.

What NK does is bring together the elements that won her the fans in the first together with wonderful world building. The characters are fully rounded, the pace is solid and when added to her overall arc alongside wonderful use of prose, makes this a new title that readers will find hard to put down. If you’re in doubt about diving in, borrow from your local library and you too will soon see the magic that brought many readers in has quickly bent you to its will.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Ashley Parker 1: Plague Town - Dana Fredsti

Release Date: 27/04/12


Ashley was just trying to get through a tough day when the world turned upside down.
A terrifying virus appears, quickly becoming a pandemic that leaves its victims, not dead, but far worse. Attacked by zombies, Ashley discovers that she is a 'Wild-Card' -- immune to the virus -- and she is recruited to fight back and try to control the outbreak.
It's "Buffy" meets the "Walking Dead" in a rapid-fire zombie adventure!


I love an author who takes a chance and take the zombie world to a different level and this title by Dana not only does that but brings a brand new kick ass heroine to the mix. The prose is slick, the character interesting and multifaceted and when added to the authors writing style, generates a tale that moves at a solid pace alongside giving the reader what they way.

Add to the mix, a solid overall arc, decent supporting cast and a whole new outlook on how a zombie outbreak is handled which will leave the reader in no doubt about what to expect from the pages within. Finally throw into this a complex love story as well ravaging alongside the fight for survival and all in it’s a tale that I couldn’t put down.

Tuesday 15 May 2012

FANTASY REVIEW: Twilight of Kerberos 1-3: The Shadowmage Trilogy - Matthew Sprange

Release Date: 15/05/12


Forced onto the streets of Turnitia after the army destroys his home and murders his parents, Lucius Kane becomes an excellent thief, gaining notoriety in his new profession. Soon drawn into a war between rival thieves guilds, Kane fights for friends and profit but finds himself pulled into the darker and more mysterious world of the Shadowmage. Mercenary practitioners who combine stealth with magic, Shadowmages make the best scouts, infiltrators, spies ... and assassins!

This stunning fantasy features a never before seen final part of the Shadowmage Trilogy, completing the saga of Lucius Kane.

A perfect place for new readers to begin!


Available for the first time as a compendium, Matthew’s Shadowmage trilogy is a set of tales that’s sheer value for money. It has great prose, wonderful characters and when backed with an imaginative world as well as solid script it makes for a series that really will hit that fantasy spot.

Finally add to this great understanding of pace and character interaction and the reader really is in for a treat. Great stuff all in and a magical offering. Top stuff.

Monday 14 May 2012

HISTORICAL FICTION: Crusade - Stewart Binns

Release Date: 26/04/12


1072 - England is firmly under the heel of its new Norman rulers. The few survivors of the English resistance look to Edgar the Atheling, the rightful heir to the English throne, to overthrow William the Conqueror. Years of intrigue and vicious civil war follow: brother against brother, family against family, friend against friend. In the face of chaos and death, Edgar and his allies form a secret brotherhood, pledging to fight for justice and freedom wherever they are denied. But soon they are called to fight for an even greater cause: the plight of the Holy Land. Embarking on the epic First Crusade to recapture Jerusalem, together they will participate in some of the cruellest battles the world has ever known, the savage Siege of Antioch and the brutal Fall of Jerusalem, and together they will fight to the death.


Having read the first book by Stewart last year I was left wondering if the second would live up to what the reader would be expecting, after all the first title is to announce them to the reader, whereas the second is the one that either keeps a reader or turns them against the writer.

What Stewart presents is a story of heroism, one of high ideals and whilst taking the reader on the crusades, he also manages to intertwine the fates of so many with in the pages. Add to this solid prose, a decent understanding of pace and when added to a wide story arc, generates a story that will have many gripped within its fist to the final page. All in a solid second novel and whilst he’s still learning the craft, he’s an author who seeks to improve with each release. Here’s hoping the third improves just as much.

Sunday 13 May 2012

TRUE CRIME REVIEW: At the Devil's Table - William C Rempel

Release Date: 10/05/12


Would you risk your life to save your soul? Colombia in the 1990s was a country on the brink. A weak government battled in vain against billion-dollar cocaine cartels, run with cold-blooded violence by warring gangsters Pablo Escobar in Medellin and the Orejuela brothers in Cali. Countless innocent lives were torn apart. One such life was Jorge Salcedo's, a part-time soldier and respected business and familyman, who lost a childhood friend to Escobar's blood feud. His military connections lead him to a secret meeting with the Cali cartel, sworn enemies of Escobar, where he was offered the chance to help take Pablo out. With mixed feelings, he agreed. Once inside, Salcedo rose to become head of security for one of the principal godfathers, struggling to preserve his integrity as he was cast deeper into the mire. Then came an order that he could not obey and could not refuse; where the only way out was to bring down the biggest, richest crime family of all time. And so begins a heart-pumping roller coaster ride that has to be read to be believed. Secretly aided by DEA agents, Salcedo must help capture his fugitive bosses and save the life of a witness targeted for murder. Death is always a misstep away. Salcedo remains in hiding in the United Sates, but has revealed his experiences in full explosive detail to the only reporter who has ever had access. This is his remarkable story and a gripping piece of true crime.


There are times when you want to find out a little more about real crime but aren’t quite sure on how to do this, whether its waiting for the memoirs of old criminals who’ve finally decided to spill the beans or delving into the stories of those who solved the cases, it always leaves you with a dark shadow over your shoulder wondering what is not only missing but how they’ve glorified what they do. Add to this, the writing style is usually pretty straight forward and you can be left wondering why you'd delve here when you could be enjoying a crime thriller.

What William’s writing does is bring the best of both worlds to the table, he has a talent for getting to the truth writing it from how he saw it, relying on first hand account and then added a thriller style to the overall writing that made it compulsive reading. Its not for the faint hearted and to be honest some of the stuff in here is very dark but as a reader I love having something like this out there as it shows what can be done to tempt and taunt you all at the same time. A great read all in and one I’m pleased I took the time to.

Saturday 12 May 2012

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Game of Thrones Developer Video - Cyanide and Koch Media

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at Koch Media and Cyanide, have let us know about thier new development V-Blog that went live earlier today that lets you know a little more about the game.

Already Lady Eleanor is sharpening her skills and preparing to slaughter her way across the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros so that she can soak the earth with the blood of her enemies.  As to me, well I'm taking the diplomatic road (and yes, Lady Eleanor is getting to play first, hence why I've decided that diplomacy is the better road.  LOL)

Game of Thrones will be available in June and when we get a precise date we'll let you know.

The game, according to the press release will be :
"Offering a brand new story developed with creative input from George R.R, Martin himself, Game of Thrones is a stunning action role-playing game that throws fans into a rich, fantasy environment as they engage in a heart-pounding quest for the famous Iron Throne.  Playing as Mors, Sworn Brother of the Night’s Watch, and Alester, a Red Priest in search of redemption, players can expect to visit familiar locations from Westeros, such as The Wall and the famous King’s Landing, while well-known faces you’ll encounter include Queen Cersei, Varys the Spider and Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.

In Game of Thrones, players have full control of their character’s development; choose your character’s class, find your fighting style, develop a balance between your strengths and weaknesses, and take part in epic battles. Find, buy or loot new equipment and weapons to fit your fighting style, and gain experience to improve your abilities. Likewise, political skills can be every bit as lethal as a sharpened sword, so never underestimate the power of a silver tongue when it comes to solving a critical situation!

● An epic Action/RPG offering an original story based on the best-selling novels, “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin
● Lush, fantasy visuals powered by Unreal Engine 3.
● Visit familiar places and meet well-known characters, faithfully reproduced from the TV series
● Play the game from the viewpoint of two different charismatic characters, each with their own background and skills
● Progress the way you choose: get involved in epic fights, or try to solve explosive situations through dialogue!"

All the best and keep those thumbs and fingers dexterous.

CRIME REVIEW: A SANDRO CELLINI MYSTERY 2 and 3: A Fine and Private Place and The Dead Season - Christobel Kent

Release Date: 08/05/12


As Sandro gets to grips with the dispiriting realities of life as a private detective, touting for business among old contacts and following errant teenagers, an old case comes back to haunt him...

Once the subject of a routine investigation back in Sandro's early days as an investigator, Loni Meadows - the glamorous, charming and ruthless director of an artistic Trust based in a castle in the hills outside Florence - is found dead in circumstances Sandro cannot convince himself are accidental. However inconvenient his suspicions might be, both to Sandro - whose marriage appears to be disintegrating - and to Meadows's erstwhile employers at the Trust, he presses ahead with the case. And as Sandro attempts to uncover the truth of Loni Meadows's violent and lonely death, he finds himself drawn into the lives of the castle's highly strung community and the closed world they inhabit in the Casentino's isolated hills.


Prior to this book I haven’t read any of Christobel’s work but having two of her works on my TBR pile I thought that I’d best get on with it. What this crime author presents to the reader is a tale that deals more with the nitty gritty than wasting time with descriptive prose which allows you to devote your time to the key matters here.

The writing is crisp, if not a little too sharp in places, the prose reasonable and when you get right into it, the supporting cast feel more like shadows that anything else, although that said, the key players, whilst vague have their emotional aspects out there which, for my money, allows the reader to see themselves in their place. Its quirky, its definitely a marmite type of writing and for me it was a story that I had a lot of fun with working out the clues. All in a decent crime story and one I found worth my time reading.

Release Date: 08/05/12


Florence is deserted. The sluggish Arno and the Ponte Vecchio shimmer in the summer haze. A corpse lies on the roadside, waiting for discovery...

Every August, Florence shimmers in the summer heat. But this year the heatwave is fiercer than usual, and the city's inhabitants have fled to the cool of the hills and beaches of the surrounding countryside. So it is no surprise that amidst the shrubbery of a normally busy roundabout, a corpse lies unnoticed, bloating in the humid air.

Sandro Cellini will not be joining the crowds of holidaymakers this year. The former policeman turned private detective has a case: a man who seems to have vanished into thin air - leaving his pregnant young wife alone in the city. Meanwhile, bankteller Roxana Delfino is also stuck in the city for the season, with nothing to do but worry for her aging mother and puzzle over the disappearance of one her regular clients.

As all Florence sweats it out, Cellini attempts as best he can to grapple with his case and the complications it throws up. And when the weather finally breaks, it brings with it a shocking revelation...


Having just read Christobel’s last title in this series I couldn’t wait to get hold of this next tale, after all I felt that I had a good grip on the characters concerned and of course, thought that I might have a better insight into the authors mind so that I could see where it was all going.

What Christobel does well for me is present a story that requires some thought, misdirecting the reader where required and also presents it in a way that you can quite easily see yourself within the scene without going overly flowery on the language. Its no nonsense writing and whilst some may not be fully enamoured of this style it allows the full attention to be spent upon the solving of the case. It is a tale that has multiple twists, some cracking deductions and of course exposes the seedy underbelly that may leave you feeling a little uncomfortable. Magic.

Friday 11 May 2012

VIDEO GAME NEWS: Darksiders 2 Collectors Edition and New VBlog - THQ

Hail Mighty Readers and Followers of the Calloused Thumbs,
Our friends at THQ have let us know about the Collectors Edition of the Forthcoming Darksiders 2 and what it contains plus a short interest piece about the games development. 

Here's what they had to say:

"THQ Inc. (NASDAQ: THQI) today announced that a European version of the Darksiders® II Collector's Edition is available for pre-order on the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and Windows PC.

The Darksiders® II Collector's Edition will include The Limited Edition version of the game as well as a life-sized replica Death Mask with display stand, a unique Shadow of Death armour and scythe set with enhanced stats, a digital copy of the Darksiders II sound-track and a hard-cover Darksiders II art book. The Collector's Edition will be available in limited quantities as a pre-order item only.

In UK; Ireland the Collector's Edition will be available from GAME, HMV, Amazon,, Gamestop and other select retailers as well as the store.

Jim Huntley, Vice President of Global Brand Marketing commented: "We are pleased to be able to offer the Darksiders II Collector's Edition to our European fans. Our European Operations team has worked extremely hard in order for us to make this happen. Stock is incredibly limited so pre-order now to avoid disappointment."

Limited quantities of the Collector's Edition are still available to pre-order from Gamestop,, Best Buy,, EB Games, the store and other select retailers in the US and Canada while stocks last.

The Darksiders II Limited Edition will include the standard retail game along with a unique code allowing the purchaser the opportunity to download the game's first single player downloadable content pack, Argul's Tomb for free once it becomes available. All pre-orders of Darksiders II will receive the Limited Edition version of the game at no additional cost."

Darksiders II follows the exploits of DEATH, one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, in an action-packed tale that runs parallel to the events in the original Darksiders game. This epic journey propels DEATH through various light and dark realms as he tries to redeem his brother WAR, the horseman blamed for prematurely starting the Apocalypse in Darksiders.

To keep up to date please check the Darksiders 2 Website.

FACTUAL REVIEW: Deadly Animals: Savage Encounters Between Man and Beast - Gordon Grice

Release Date: 03/05/12


Consider, if you can, the case of Jacob Fowler, who heard what he thought was the sound of his own skull cracking between the jaws of a grizzly bear - only to discover that it was. Or the Arizonan jogger who ran a mile back to her car with a rabid fox clamped to her arm before driving to hospital for live-saving inoculations. Or the woman who was attacked by a hyena, dragged from her tent by her face and survived to tell of her ordeal. The dangers of the animal kingdom are the stuff of legend but the reality of man's vulnerability and of nature's savage power is far more various, improbable and chilling than even the most active imagination would fear. In this unique work of nature writing, you will encounter the most formidable predators on land and sea - as well as the most overlooked, bizarre and inventive hazards that mother nature has to offer. Meet the cougar that can leap 40 feet and clear 8-foot fences with a fully-grown deer in its jaws, the tapeworm that's been known to grow as long as 82 feet in the human gut and the elephant that single-handedly destroyed an oil tanker. Drawing on an enormous host of true encounters between man and beast, this is the world's most authoritative compendium of animal attacks on human beings. With mordant wit and expert timing, Gordon Grice provides a gripping journey to the dark side of the animal kingdom and a celebration of its humbling, savage glory. It was originally published in hardback as "The Book of Deadly Animals".


If you love books about animals at their most deadly wrapped up in easy to read chapters then this book may well be the one for you. Its full of trivia, interesting facts and stories of survival. That said, personally I felt that it needed more illustrations or, failing that, would have perhaps been better as a TV series where you can follow everything from start to finish.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a good read, it is well written and the author knows their stuff as well as facts. Add this to a personable approachable writing style and its something that a lot of people will enjoy but without the visual it feels a little flat.