Category Archives: Book reviews

He-man and the Masters of the Universe: Mini Comic Collection (2015)

I grew up in the 80’s and for me that was a time that I remember fondly for two things: saturday morning cartoons, and the wonderful toys that these cartoons got their inspiration from. When I was a kid I used to get up at about 7 o’clock in the morning on saturday, turn on the tv to Sky Channel and there it was: the program that set my young eyes alight: Fun Factory. For the first two hours or so, Fun Factory was okayish. But things became really interesting when the “big three” came on: M.A.S.K., He-man and Transformers. Ahhh..to think back on those days, even though they are so many years ago (jeezzzzz I really AM getting old), just brings a smile to my face. When you look at the cartoons from this era and compare them to the golden oldies from the 80’s one can only say that they just don’t make them like they used too. I was and still am a huge Transformers fan (like many kids back in those days). But one of the biggest rivals of Transformers, a dude with a big sword called He-man, honestly failed to impress me. I never bought a He-man toy, and I really did not enjoy the cartoon as much.

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This is a pretty big book alright.

Now, thirty years later, I came into posession of the complete series of He-man and the Masters of the Universe on dvd. And…I am loving it. For some reason I have found a new appreciation of the cartoon, but that is a story for another day. As is most often the case when I all of a sudden have a new obsession, I want to find out more about it. And that brings me to this incredible tome that was released a few years back by Dark Horse comics. He-man and the Masters of the Universe Mini Comic Collection reproduces the comics that came with the toys. Well as I was never interested in the toys in the first place I did not even know of the existence of these comics until I read about this book. The first thing you will notice is how thick this book is (and for that matter how much it weighs). With a massive 1232 pages it will take you a while to get through it all. So what exactly does this book offer you?

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Gotta love that retro comic book style.

This being a comic collection it will not come as a huge surprise when I tell you this humongous book contains comics, and a lot of them. Nearly 70 comics in total are collected here, ranging from the orginal 1982 toylines of He-man and his sister She-ra to a shortlived comic run that should have served as a revival for the series but never quite took off. Besides the comics themselves it also contains a wealth of background info on the series,  which includes interviews with some of the writers and pencilers that created these works of art. And I do mean art. As you might have noticed from a couple of the shots I have included in this post, there was some major talent involved when you like at the drawings alone. I love the oldschool style of some of these comics, and for anyone who grew up with comics in the 80’s it’s hard to not smile at the nostalgic feel of it all. At the start of this run, you could hardly speak of comics as they were more stories that were accompanied by pictures. Later the series evolved and became more traditional looking comics.

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The early comics could not really be called comics in the traditional sense of the word.

The art is good, but how are the stories themselves? Well, they range from totally awesome to downright sucky, if you will pardon my French. But overall though most of the comics are pretty cool. It’s classic good vs evil type of storytelling where He-man fights against his nemesis the evil lord Skeletor and his henchmen. A fun fact to know is that one of the comics was written by Robert Kirkman. If that name doesn’t ring a bell he is the creator of a little known comicbook/tv series called The Walking Dead. This being a kid show, are these comics any fun to read when you are an adult? Well, quite frankly yes. He-man always has been a series that targeted an audience of 12 years and older (and ofcourse younger children still watched it anyway because it was cool to do so), and as such some of the stories and comics depict some pretty gruesome creatures and situations. In fact one of the covers of these comics caused quite a big disturbance at the time of it’s release because it was very brutal and had parents all over the world in uproar.

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Gee, I wonder why parents got upset by this cover?

This book is absolutely amazing. If you have a warm heart towards 80’s cartoons, or a love for oldschool type comics, this is a collection that you just have to pick up. It isn’t even a very expensive book, and for the amount of stuff it contains it is well worth the price. It gives a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of these mini-comics and the amount of work that went into creating these. Even if you have never heard of He-man it’s worth checking it out, especially if you like fantasy type storytelling combined with some of the best art possible. Even though not all of the comics are of the same quality, you will get enough of a kick out of these to make you enjoy it, and forget about some of the lesser comics. In other words go and relive your childhood if you grew up with these cartoons, and buy this book. I promise you, you will not regret it. By the power of Grayskull: I HAVE THE POWERRRRRR!!!!!!

I give He-man the Masters of the Universe mini comic collection a 9 out of 10 score.

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The Cabinet of Curiosities, a novel by Preston&Child (2002)

If there is one thing I like in a novel, it’s when it completely makes you forget your surroundings or causes you to lose track of time. That is one of the highest levels of praise a book can receive, and if it manages to do that in some way, it is usually because it was written by an author that is an expert. And is also very skilled in torture. Huh? Torture? Well yes of course. Don’t you just hate it when you decided to read one more chapter before turning to sleep and end up reading five more because you just have to find out what happened to a certain character? That you just can’t stop, because if you do you feel like your mind just can’t take it anymore? Hence the torture part. I had previously read two other novels by Preston and Childs, The Relic and Reliquary, and they both featured a character that some describe as a modern day Sherlock Holmes. I’m talking about FBI Special Agent Pendergast, but I honestly don’t really see him like that. But more on that below. This third Pendergast novel though, takes you on a relentless rollercoaster ride, that doesn’t let up until you reach the final page. Not that the previous two novels weren’t good or anything, but this one takes things to a whole other level of excitement.

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The Cabinet of Curiosities starts off on a construction site in Manhattan where a ghastly discovery is made. A tunnel is unearthed that contains the mutilated bodies of 36 young people. All of the remains had parts of their spine remove. It is not before long that agent Pendergast arrives at the grissly scene together with Dr. Nora Kelly, an archeologist who works at the Museum of Natural History. She is very relucant at first to help him, as she finds the pale man a very strange and peculiar individual. Soon though her own curiosity gets the better of her, and she begins to try and discover the truth about what really happened. It soon becomes clear that all of the people have been murdered in a horrifying way almost 130 years ago. What the exact motive was of the killer is at first unclear. But the case becomes even more terrifying when it seems that the murders are starting up again. This has to be a copycat killer though right? With the police and the mayor trying to thwart Pendergast at every turn because of ulterior motives, it becomes increasingly more difficult for him and Kelly to solve the case. In the meantime the killings continue…..

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This was a book that I would like to call a real pageturner. It’s been quite a while since I have read a novel that had me gasping for breath at almost every page. But this one managed to achieve that, and then some. The writing style of Preston & Child is terrific. They manage to describe their scenes in a very vivid way, and crank up the tension to an almost unbearable level. Which is exactly how I like my books. No matter how great your story is, if you have characters that you don’t care about in any way, you will probably lose your audience. But the writer duo has you covered there as well, as it contains quite a number of indivuals that you will grow to love (as well as hate, for a few of them are pretty despicable indeed). But it’s agent Pendergast that is the driving force of this book, more so than in the previous installments. I’d like to think of him as kind of mix between Indiana Jones and Jack Bauer. He is mysterious, resourceful, tough as nails, while at the same time he has a very big heart that people might not notice right away.

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If I were to name some negative points to this books, it’s the use of quite a number of pretty difficult medical and forensic terms. My grasp of the English language is quite good, but there were a few times where I struggled to understand the meaning of certain terms. But luckily this never managed to put me off in any way, as the story is just too good for that. This novel can be read without having knowledge of the events of the earlier two books, although you will probably enjoy it even more if you have read those. If you like tense and gripping thrillers about serial killers, with a slightly supernatural edge to it, this is one book you should check out ASAP. It’s guaranteed to cause you some sleepless nights (in fact I dare you not to complete this one in one day: it really is that good). In closing I would like to dedicate this review to the wonderful Kim. She is truly an amazing individual who is someone that has always managed to inspire me with the posts she writes. Kind, positive and always there for other people are some of the qualities that describe her best. Go and check out her wonderful blog about the world of the written word. I promise you won’t regret doing so. As always, thank you for reading.

I give The Cabinet of Curiosities a 9 out of 10 score.

Thrawn, a Star Wars novel by Timothy Zahn (2017)

With the movie the Return of the Jedi that was released in 1983, the first Star Wars trilogy was finished. And many people at the time thought that would be the end of things. The popularity of the franchise started to wane, and slowly but surely people began to lose interest. But then nine years later Star Wars got noticed again, this time not because of a new movie, but by a novel written by Timothy Zahn called Heir to the Empire. It would be the first of a new trilogy of books that chronicled events that took place after Return of the Jedi. It became a huge succes. Not only was it an amazing story, but it also introduced a couple of new characters that became fan favorites, even though they had never been seen before in a movie. The most notorious of these was Grand Admiral Thrawn. The blue skinned alien Chiss, was a military genius that almost brought the New Republic to it’s knees. After this first trilogy a huge range of novels were made that took the story even further. This became known as the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

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The original cover to the book that introduced Thrawn.

This was all before the Dark Times…before the Empi…erm, Disney. When they took over Lucasfilm, and revealed plans to make a new trilogy of movies taking place after Episode VI, something had to be done about the Expanded Universe. And something was done to it: it was declared non-canon. In other words all the characters, worlds and events created within those books were no longer part of the official Star Wars timeline. A lot of fans, including me, were not very happy with that. But two years ago, something happened that brought a smile to the faces of many people that loved those books: Thrawn was brought back. This time he was reintroduced as a new adversary in the Star Wars cartoonseries Rebels. And just like that Thrawn was canon again. Last year the original creator of Thrawn, writer Timothy Zahn, wrote a new book about the legendary character. It was, needless to say, highly anticipated. But as with most things that you look forward to, it very rarely lives up to all the things you expect.

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Thrawn in Star Wars Rebels. 

This novel explores the origin of Thrawn and tells the tale of his quick rise to power through the ranks of the Empire. Thrawn is first found as a young man, seemingly abandoned by his people. An Imperial team is impressed by his cunning and tactical genius, and decide to give him a chance to prove himself. Thrawn takes on the young ensign Eli Vanto as a translator and together with him, begins his training. But a lot of high ranked people don’t take kindly to having an alien in their ranks and would like to see him fail. Meanwhile on the planet Lothal a ruthless administrator called Arihnda Pryce is also making plans to expand her power. Eventually the two will cross paths. Where Thrawn is skilled in military tactics, Pryce is more than his match on the battlefield of politics. But when threats against the still unstable Empire begin to appear all over the galaxy, Thrawn faces a new adversary that might become his downfall. Especially when this opponent seems to be two steps ahead of him at every turn…..

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Yup….Arihnda Pryce was also featured in Rebels. She doesn’t look very happy about it though. 

Thrawn became a very different novel than I expected it to be. I had hoped for a very tense and exciting book, with an interesting origin story of the Grand Admiral. In part it delivers this, but the other part was well, quite frankly a bit boring. We get a story that focusses a lot on internal politics. As I am not a huge fan of politics in the first place, I felt that these chapters slowed the story down to a crawl. We also get a lot of secondary characters thrown into the mix, that just get introduced but then, at least most of them, don’t really do anything. But what of Thrawn himself? The character that many loved so much in the brilliant original trilogy of books that introduced him feels…different. It’s still Thrawn, that can’t be denied, but at the same time it’s not. Of course Zahn had to reinvent the character and as such has had to make some changes. But still, this is not the same Thrawn that was such an amazing villain. And that is the part that disappointed me the most.

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Yes, he is looking at you. Are you scared yet? 

Still, it is not a bad novel. There is small cameo appearance of a major character that will have most Star Wars fans whopping with joy. I also really liked the backstory of Arihnda Pryce who was at times even more cunning then Thrawn. Whether or not you will like this novel depends on a few things. If you like your Star Wars books to be full of action, big space battles and lots of tension, then I don’t think this is a novel you would enjoy. There are a few scenes like that, but mostly we get a book that focusses more on backstabbing officials and internal politics. As mentioned Thrawn is also not quite the character you are used to, but there are still flashes of his original brilliance throughout the book. Maybe the sequel to this novel, Thrawn: Alliances, that will be published this year, more of those flashes will make an appearance. All in all, Thrawn is an okay novel if you don’t expect too much from it.

I give Thrawn a 7 out of 10 score.

The official making of Big Trouble in Little China, a book written by Tara Bennet & Paul Terry (2016)

Director John Carpenter will always be one of my favorite alltime horror movie directors. Best known for movies such as The Thing and Halloween he has made an impact on this genre that is felt even today. One of his lesser known, but no less fun movies is Big Trouble in Little China. While this one technically can not really be called a horror movie, it’s one of those films that has gathered a real cult status amongst fans, myself included. Two years ago, the movie celebrated it’s 30th anniversary, and as often happens during events like that some cool products were released to help celebrate it. One of the things I always enjoy reading is books that detail how a certain film was made, especially if they contain some cool facts and nice artwork. To my delight, finally John Carpenter’s classic got a book like that as well. And as Kurt Russel’s character Jack Burton from the movie would say: “Great, a six demon bag. What’s in it?”

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“Son of a bitch must pay!!” 

Within the pages of this 176 page book you will find a lot of awesome never before seen photographs, that could definitely be called the highlight of this book. Included are promotional photographs, behind the scenes pictures, stills from the movie itself, and a lot of detailed artwork. All of these are printed in very high quality resolution, and every photograph no matter how small, get’s a description of what it shows. The latter might seem very obvious, but trust me when I say that there have also been making of books that did not include this information. That always annoys me to no end, because there have truly been some occasions where I would have loved to have found out what a certain picture depicted. The entire layout of the book, breathes the atmosphere of this great film, and the designers of this did a great job on that department. The book pretty much follows along with the story of the film, and so you will find yourself taking a trip down memory lane when you flip through the book.

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The good old Pork-Chop Express.

But besides the photographs there is of course also a lot of information about what went on during the making of the movie itself. It is written in a clear and concise way, that includes insights from the cast and crew itself. Some of the text was a bit dry, especially when they went into details about which type of cameras were being used, and stuff like that. But that luckily doesn’t happen very often. There were two things I really enjoyed finding out about and had never known before, prior to reading this book. The first was that the actress that played the character of Margo Litzenberg, Kate Burton, was the daughter of the legendary actor Richard Burton. The other is the fact that this movie was really helpful in the promotion and use of Asian American actors. As we all know, there has been a lot of controversy over the “whitewashing” affairs of the American movie industry. This movie was way ahead of it’s time in the fact that it used almost primarily Asian American actors/actresses for it’s leading roles. A fact that the cast was very thankful of and that really becomes kind of a focal point throughout this book.

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Some people just don’t look their best when they just woke up. 

The book is presented in pretty thick glossy pages that really give it the look of a high quality product. To round out the book we get a foreword written by the legendary director himself, and an afterword penned by it’s leading man Kurt Russell. This is a book that is written for the fans, there’s no question about that. If you have never seen the film, there is little to no point in picking this up. Unless you really like reading books about all the details and hard work that is put into making a film like this. However if you have been a fan of this cult classic as much as I have been, this one is well worth it to add to your collection. Overall it was a very enjoyable read, that contains a wealth of good background information, great interviews with cast and crew, and of course the visual aspects of it were a delight. You can almost hear the Pork-Chop Express driving up to your home with old Jack Burton on the CB saying: “It’s all in the reflexes”.

I give the Official Making of Big Trouble in Little China a 8 out of 10 score.

Sisters of Battle, a Warhammer 40000 novel by James Swallow (2017)

Imagine a grim and dark universe that only has one thing on it’s mind: war. Not a very bright thing to look forward to is it? But it has been the setting for decades for a tabletop game called Warhammer 40.000. In that game players battle each other with fictional armies of painted miniatures. Taking place in the 41st Millenium (talk about a time jump), it is one of the most detailed science fiction universes ever created. With literally thousands of novels and sourcebooks that tell the tales of the men, women and aliens that are living in there, it can be very overwhelming for people that are not familiar with it. In this far future, mankind has taken to the stars and have created an Imperium that consists of thousands of planets. Humanity is led by The Emperor that was mortally wounded in a great war called the Horus Heresy. He now permanently resides on Terra where he is kept alive on The Golden Throne. In his name vast armies of Space Marines take the fight to enemies ranking from aliens to horrifying demons.

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Yup…..we get girlpower now!

I myself have never played the game, but I really love the stories that are written for this universe. I have a pretty big collection of books in this range, and most of these tell the accounts of the soldiers of the Imperium, the superhuman Space Marines. That’s why it was very refreshing to find a novel that does something entirely different. It brings girlpower to this male dominated universe! The Sisters of Battle Omnibus features four stories that focus on the women soldiers also known as the Adepta Sororitas. Fanatically loyal to the Emperor, these women are not supersoldiers or enhanced in any way. But what they may lack in strength, they more than make up for with their courage and faith. In this omnibus we get introduced to Sister Miriya, who has become one of my favorite Warhammer 40.000 characters. Raven haired, headstrong but courageous to a fault she is an absolute delight and a true heroine.

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One of the more horrifying enemies that lurk in this book: The Necron.

The second main character of this book is Sister Verity, who is not a soldier but a medic and almost the complete opposite of Miriya. Where the former is of the type to shoot first and ask questions later, Verity always tries to reason through everything and is an incredibly kind soul that always sees the best in people. This unlikely pair soon become vast friends, and are going to have to face some true challenges. The four stories that make up this omnibus are all good, but my two favorites have got to be the two novella length ones. In Faith and Fire the two Sisters are going after a rogue psyker that has killed Verity’s real sister, and is responsible for the death of countless other humans. But soon it becomes clear that there is something far more sinister going on. In Hammer and Anvil Miriya and Verity land on a planet that contains an outpost from the Adepta Sororitas that has been silent for years. No one really knows what transpired there, but the truth is more horrifying than both could ever have imagined.

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Who would argue with a woman like this?

James Swallow, the author of all four stories, has really outdone himself. This collection comes running out of the gates, and never once becomes boring in any way. There are some great battlescenes, terrific characters (both heroes and enemies) but there is also enough time amidst all the carnage to tell some great tales. If you have never before experienced the Warhammer 40.000 universe this omnibus certainly is a great way to enter it. As it features a branch of The Imperium that hasn’t been featured in many other novels yet, you need no real other knowledge to enjoy this book. If you love military science fiction, that has fast paced action and interesting characters I highly recommend checking this one out. It really was a great read from start to finish, and one of the best novels that I have read all year. And really, who can resist an awesome cover like that!

I give Sisters of Battle a 9 out of 10 score.

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever : a fantasy novel by Stephen Donaldson (1977)

Every year on my birthday a group of my closest friends gather together in secret to come up with a birthday present for me. And that is quite a difficult feat, mind you, as my hobbies and the things I like are quite large. As such, it becomes harder every year to find something that I don’t already own. (But to my defense I have the same problem in deciding what to give them in return). Usually it takes them quite a while to come up with an idea, but this year apparently was the first time that it was quite easy. On that fateful day in March I received a huge box that contained a large number of books. I was at a loss for words as it truly was a wonderful gift, but I was even more surprised in finding out that it was a series of novels that I had never heard about. Today I finished the first of those novels, a huge 1154 page omnibus edition that contained the first three books of an epic fantasy series. This review is written for my friends who gave me this wonderful present, but for one in particular who shall remain nameless, because I know she doesn’t like stuff like this. But she was the one who came up with this idea, and I can’t thank her enough, for this book was truly wonderful from start to finish. And then again: you know who you are anyway!

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The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever is an epic fantasy series, that features one of the most unusual heroes that you will ever meet. In fact I can’t think of a single book character that I have ever hated more in my life than Thomas Covenant. But in the end you want to see him win the day too, which only contributes to the amazing skills of the writer. Thomas Covenant has been diagnosed with leprosy. His wife, unable to deal with this, has filed for divorce and has left him, together with their young son. The town he lives in despises him, and wants nothing to do with him. In fact they pretty much stop at nothing to get him to leave. Because of this Thomas has grown into an incredibly bitter man, that has no love for anyone. One day he gets hit by a car and falls unconscious. And it is then that strange things are beginning to happen.

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When Covenant wakes up he finds himself in an unfamiliair world, simply called “The Land”. He finds out that he has been summoned there by a creature that has been manipulated by an evil being called Lord Foul. Lord Foul’s evil threatens to destroy The Land, but Thomas might just have the power to stop him. And that power seems to be contained within the most unlikely place one could think of: the wedding ring on his finger which he could not make himself to stop wearing even after his divorce. Thomas, however doesn’t believe that all of this is real, and instead thinks it is something conjured up by his mind to let him deal with his leprosy. With the evil gaining power every single day, the plight of the good people of The Land becomes ever more desperate. But as long as Thomas remains an Unbeliever, Lord Foul has won the war without even having to strike a single blow….

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This omnibus Edition contains the novels Lord Foul’s Bane, The Illearth War and The Power That Preserves. As I mentioned above, I truly hated Thomas Covenant. You would think that with everything I told you about him, one would give the guy a break. But trust me when I say that you will grow to hate him as well. This man is pretty much unfriendly to everyone he meets, no matter how they treat him. He even ends up raping an innocent girl at some point, which was a truly loathsome act. But still, as the story progresses his character grows on you, and you really want him to pull through anyway, no matter what he has done. Stephen Donaldson has put together a very rich fantasy world, filled with a huge cast of characters and places. And I do mean huge as at the back of the novel there is a 8 page glossary of names for all the characters, items, and places that the novel contains.

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That was also the only negative point I could come up with. The sheer number of names and terms used in the book was so big, that I did find myself flicking to the back of the novel at times to look up who a certain character was. But besides that, this book is an incredible read from start to finish. It’s a pageturner that is hard to put down, and truly has that classic quality of  “Just one more chapter before I turn off the lights” (which usually means that you end up reading more than one chapter). The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is a must read for people who like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. It’s rich mythology, terrific characters, and epic storyline will hold you spellbound all the way to the end. Even though I will now take a break in order to return to a science fiction universe, I can’t wait to get back to The Land, and continue with the epic adventures of Thomas. Even though I still hate that guy…..

I give The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant a 9 out of 10 score.

The Art and making of Alien Covenant, a Alien book (2017)

I sometimes just get the best gifts. This year the movie Alien Covenant was released, the follow up to Prometheus, and prequel to the legendary Alien movie directed by Ridley Scott. A lot of people were not very pleased with it, but I ended up liking it a lot as you can tell by reading my review for it. Knowing I am a huge fan of the Alien franchise in general, a very special girl that goes by the name of Ludija, bought this great book for me that deals with the making of this latest movie in the franchise. And what better way to thank her, than by dedicating this review to her. So Ludija: this one is for you!

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An example of the terrific artwork contained within this book. 

The best thing about this book is the lavish illustrations and photographs that are contained within it’s pages. Including stills from the movie itself, as well as artwork and behind the scenes photography, this book really is a feast for your eyes. All of the photographs have an incredibly high quality, and I can honestly say that some of these rank amongst the best that I have ever seen for books like these. The layout is very pleasing as well. The book is divided into chapters and pretty much follows the story of the film from beginning to end.

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Yup, never denied the fact that some of this artwork is pretty gruesome. 

The book starts with a (short) foreword by director Ridley Scott himself. This was just added as an afterthought I think, as Ridley seriously has not much to say. In fact, it is so short that I wonder why they bothered including it in the first place. The rest of the written stuff includes a few interviews with the cast and crew, and of course some outlines and background story about the making of the film. All of this is written in a pretty basic style, and doesn’t include overly difficult technical terms or things like that. It’s not exactly boring, but I do have to admit that I have read making off books that were much more appealing.

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The photography really has an incredibly high quality. 

That said, this book is worth it for exactly what it says on the cover: the art. I can also say that this book will only appeal to you if you were a fan of the film, as there is nothing else about this book to recommend. I for one loved it because of the beautiful artwork and photography contained within it. If I were to judge it purely on the written text I would give it a 6 out of 10 score. But it is the imagery that raises the final score for this book as you can see down below.

I give The Art and making of Alien Covenant a 8 out of 10 score.

 

Alita Last Order Omnibus vol.1, A Japanese manga book (2011)

The Japanese manga Battle Angel Alita, or Gunnm as it is known in Japan, has been praised by none other than director James Cameron. He is a huge fan of this manga, and has been wanting to direct a live action movie based on it for quite some time now. I doubt it will ever get to see the light of day though, as it has been announced so many times that is almost becoming laughable. For those of you unfamiliair with the original manga let me tell you quickly what the story is about.

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Battle Angel Alita is set in a post apocalyptic future and is centered around the character of Alita, a female cyborg. She was originally found in a junkyard, robbed of all her memories. The cybernetics doctor who finds Alita, decides to rebuild her, and when she awakens she discovers that there is actually one thing she does remember. It is the ancient legendary martial art of Panzer Kunst. With this deadly skill she eventually takes on the profession of  bounty hunter. The world she lives in is an interesting and very unique one. The floating city of Tiphares is the cause of a massive scrapheap on the surface which surrounds the aptly named city of Scrapyard. As the city of Tiphares is off limits to surface dwellers, they are forced to make a living amongst the junk, a very hard life indeed.

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Alita Last Order continues the storyline of the original manga, but does pretty much ignore the original ending, or so I have heard. While I did read a few chapters of the first Battle Angel Alita series, I have never completed it. But so far I have been able to follow the storyline along just fine without all the knowledge of the original manga. Alita Last Order starts off with the resurrection of Alita by her enemy/ally Desty Nova. Their relationship has always been a complex one, and it continues to be so in the new series. The story this time takes place on Tiphares, on which quite a number of things have changed. The city has turned into complete chaos, and numerous rebellions are underway. Amidst the chaos Alita tries to find out what happened to her old friend Lou, but at the same she also searches for more answers to her own forgotten past. Both things are incredibly hard to do, as Alita is about to find out…

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While I still prefer anime to manga, this series was just to good to resist. I fell in love with the character of Alita quite a few years ago, when I first laid eyes on her in the original manga. While visiting Animecon 2017 last month, I was amazed to find out that the series had continued in this new form, and as such I bought all five omnibus editions. The first installment certainly did not disappoint. The art for this is absolutely breathtaking, and at times I just kept staring at certain panels to admire them. Alita contains enough action to keep your attention throughout the entire 650 page count, but the story itself also is worth every minute of your time. The theme that keeps returning the most is the question of what it is like to be human. But even though that has been featured so many times in other media, Alita turns it upside down, and still manages to be original too. I simply have nothing negative to say about this series. If you love dystopian post apocalyptic science fiction stories, featuring great art, and enough action to leave you gasping at air, I highly recommend you check this manga out.

I give Alita Last Order Omnibus Volume 1 a 9 out of 10 score.

 

Back to the Future: the Ultimate visual history, a Back to Future book (2015)

In 1985 moviegoing audiences were introduced to one of the best time travelling movies ever made, Back to the Future. The film starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd became a huge succes and is one of those classic 80’s movies that pretty much everyone remembers seeing. Eventually a second and third part were released, both also highly succesful movies. I myself regard the Back to the Future movie trilogy as one of the best movie trilogies ever made. It just simply works. The story is great, the characters are pretty much unforgettable, and it contains a ton of sequences that are absolutely amazing to watch. While it is very unlikely that a sequel to these films will ever be made, the franchise still lives on in the hearts of movie lovers all around the world. The year 2015 was not only an important year in the movie itself, but also marked it’s 30th anniversary. A perfect moment to release the book that I am about to review.

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The Back to the Future Ultimate Visual History is a book, that chronicles all the aspects involved in making all three movies from the trilogy. It is divided into four main chapters. The first three focus mainly on everything that was needed in order to bring the three movies to the big screen. The final (shorter) chapter, deals with the Universal Studios theme park attraction Back to the Future: the Ride, as well as the short lived Back to the Future animated series. The first three chapters were definitely the most interesting. These contain a wealth of information about the three films, including interviews with the cast and crew, as well as a lot of background stories. How many of you for instance knew that the role of Marty Mcfly was originally played by actor Eric Stoltz? And that he was fired after nearly six weeks of shooting film. Or how much of a pain in the ass actor Crispin Glover, who played the role of Marty’s dad, was on set. It are stories like these, and much, much more that make this book such a joy to read.

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But ofcourse it’s not called “the Ultimate Visual History” for nothing. The book comes with a wealth of behind the scenes photographs, production designs, movie posters and other things that make the book a treat for your eyes as well. Also included are a couple of replicas from things that were featured in the film. For instance the photograph from the first movie, that had Marty’s brother and sister slowly fading from the picture. As much fun as these features are, they are also the book’s weakest point. Usually in books like these, the reader is able to remove these things in order to take a closer look at them. Here though, they are glued to the pages of the book, and as such they can’t be taken out without causing damage. Ofcourse I did not remove them, but despite that, because some of them are quite large you do run the risk of causing damage eventually, especially if you want to flip through it’s pages.

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But this is a minor issue in what is otherwise a great book. The book is well written and thankfully does not bore you to death with a lot of technical details like which camera techniques were used or stuff like that. The thing I also enjoyed about it were the numerous interviews with the original cast, and also the forewords written by Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd. It is always very cool if you manage to get the actors themselves involved in a project like this as well. All in all I highly recommend this book. Especially if you are a fan of these movies, it provides an interesting background companion to what was involved in the making of these classic films. So all I can say is, let’s go back ….to the future….

I give Back to the Future: the Ultimate Visual History a 9 out of 10 score.

Aliens the original comics series (30th anniversary Edition), a Dark Horse Comics Graphic Novel (2016)

In 1979 director Ridley Scott unleashed a science fiction horror movie called Alien onto the unsuspecting human race. With the tagline “In space no one can hear you scream”, there was plenty of screaming that was done in the movie theatres. Needless to say, the movie became an instant classic and set up a new benchmark for horrorfilms. Seven years later the sequel Aliens was released, and it has become my alltime favorite science fiction movie. Not only did it feature a great story, fantastic special effects, and plenty of exciting and thrilling scenes, but there were also a bunch of unforgettable characters. Two of them, Corporal Hicks and the young girl Newt, actually survived at the end of the film. Unfortunately in Alien 3 they were killed off in 10 seconds at the start of that movie. There were many fans that were very mad at the way that this was done, and it did not show those characters the respect they deserved.

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Well, I guess it’s safe to say this guy is pretty much toast. 

In 1987 Dark Horse comics was approached to do a comicbook series that continued the storyline from Aliens. That black and white comic became a huge succes and afterwards many more books were produced. Last year the first six issues were reprinted and released in a very beautiful hardcover graphic novel. Since these comics were made before the release of Alien 3, it tells a completely different story. As such you could compare it to the books of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, that now officially aren’t canon anymore since Disney took over. But honestly I could not care less about that, as this book was highly enjoyable to read.

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Nope, still seeing monsters. 

The comics take place on Earth, a few years after the events of Aliens. Newt is now a grown woman, and Hicks is still with the Colonial Marines, even though his colleagues seem to despise him. Both Newt and Hicks have their own traumas to deal with, and find it really difficult to cope with their experiences on the doomed colony of LV-426. But dark forces are at work on Earth. It seems that the Aliens are highly wanted material for the bioweapons industry. Certain things are being set into motion to bring the creatures to Earth. Hicks meanwhile is hired for a mission to the homeworld of the Aliens, and along the way will get reunited with Newt. But time seems to be running out for everyone, as something goes horribly wrong while trying to capture the Aliens. And soon Earth will become the target for a new hive…..

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The coastguard sure has changed. 

This 30th anniversary edition is a truly beautiful graphic novel. All the pages have a black finish on the outside, and every page is made of very sturdy paper. As mentioned the book contains issues 1-6 of the original comic. Also included is a short story called Lucky, and a pin-up gallery of the covers and some additional art. Rounding out the book is a fore-and afterword by both author Mark Verheiden and artist Mark A. Nelson. The black and white art for these comics is truly amazing and really recaptures the spirit of the movies. Ofcourse the movies were, at times, pretty graphic, and that also comes back in this book. That’s why this certainly won’t be for the faint at heart. The storyline is very good, and honestly much better than the Alien 3 movie. Sadly the company at the time did not have the rights to the Ripley character, so you won’t be seeing her in any of these pages.

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Game over man, game over! 

This book is simply put a must buy for every Aliens fan. The book looks great and has been a joy to read from start to finish. Even though most of the storylines are complete, the ending has left things wide open. Ofcourse the series was later continued with further issues. What might interest you to know, is that after Alien 3 was released, Dark Horse decided to change the names of Newt and Hicks to Billie and Wilks. This was ofcourse done to ensure that the comicbook could still remain canon. Here though, they reprinted the books in the way they were originally released. I highly recommend this book to every Alien and science fiction comics fan out there.

I give Aliens: the original comics series (30th Anniversary Edition), a 9 out of 10 score.