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Review of Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu


downloadI gave up on YA dystopian fiction when it seemed all that was being published was that genre and most of it not very good. But then I read The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig (check it out) and it made me give YA dystopia another chance. I read Legend by Marie Lu, and that kept me interested. It wasn’t the most original book I’d ever read, but it was entertaining from beginning to end. Prodigy, the second book in Lu’s Legend trilogy, raises the stakes, and is even better than its predecessor.

Originality in dystopian fiction is pretty hard to come by now, and that’s not just because the books in the genre tend to begiphy (12) derivative of the Hunger Games or Divergent (which is derivative itself in places) but because everything has been done and it’s not easy to be original when that happens. Prodigy isn’t original. It shares tones and themes with the Hunger Games, sometimes to the point that it could be plagiarism (a hero picked out by the people to fight the corrupt government, a bird as a symbol, etc). But somehow Prodigy manages to be different enough that I forgot about the Hunger Games while reading it. That’s in large part down to the relentless pace (from beginning to end) and the string of gripping action set pieces.

Action. It’s my favourite part of a book, and I like plenty of it and for it to be as brutal as possible. And Lu delivered on that front. Legend is packed with chases sequences and fight sequences and some breathless escapes. There’s never a dull moment. There are some grating moments, mostly down to the characters. Day and June are constantly questioning each giphy (13)other and themselves and their feelings for each other. Feelings… They’re not my thing. And they’re present here from beginning to end. Many will enjoy that. For me, the constant doubting and worrying about each other got pretty old. There is a war going on around them and they’re worrying about their feelings for each other, and their feelings for other people. Day is as bad as June for this.

The plot, like in Legend, isn’t full of twists and turns, but it’s gripping enough to hold the story together. There is a lot of running and being chased (see Cap’n Jack below). But i wish there had been more plot, more surprising twists. Though the ending does leave some pretty big questions for the third and final giphy (11)installment. The world-building started off vague, but a couple dozen pages in Lu remedied the mistakes from the first book and I found it easier to imagine the world of these books. And it’s cool. The twist about the colonies was great, if not entirely unexpected, and I’m looking forward to finding out more in the third book.

The writing. Lu has got a knack for using a few words and getting everything across clearly. She doesn’t use pointless description and too many figurative devices. She gets to the point, and the pace benefits from it. There are a lot of questions in this book. June asks herself a lot of questions and so does Day. There are whole paragraphs made up of just questions and it feels a little bit… much at times. That’s the only problem I found with the writing. Lu can write. No doubt.

Overall, this is an action-packed second instalment. It doesn’t suffer from second-book-syndrome and Lu takes the characters and world to new places. The plot advanced enough that breaking the series into a trilogy seems justified, and it’s good that I can’t predict what’s in store in the final book. There’s a big cliffhanger, and I’m not sure where Lu’s going to take it.

Highly, highly recommended.


Review of The Infinite Sea (Book 2 of the 5th Wave) by Rick Yancey


No spoilers.

When the first book in a series is as good as The 5th Wave producing a sequel that is worthy and better than its predecessor is a tough task. The 5th Wave was an action packed, twisting invasion thriller that barely let up. The sequel The Infinite Sea, is around a hundred pages shorter than its predecessor, but it’s somehow slower and less action packed. That doesn’t mean this is a bad book, or that it isn’t worthy of The 5th Wave. Infinite Sea is still a fast-paced book with some awesome action sequences, but it’s also heavy on romance and a lot of talking about feelings—some may like that. I don’t. I like full on action, just like The 5th Wave provided. That book balanced excellent set pieces with great pace, a tight plot and left just enough questions to make me eager for the sequel. The Infinite Sea ended much the same way. But it also provided an awesome twist that I didn’t see coming and some burning questions for the third and final book in the trilogy.

What this book got right was the writing, the voices of the split narratives, and the action sequences. Rick Yancey cthe-infinite-sea-extract-embargoed-p1-normalan always be relied on to deliver tight, vivid writing and his characters always feel real. There isn’t always a lot of character development, but these books aren’t so much about the characters’ pasts, as about their present and their futures. Most of the characters from book 1 are back. Cassie, Evan, Zombie, Sam, Ringer, Vosch etc, and  those who didn’t get much to do last time come into the fore this time around. For most of the novel, Ringer narrates, and her voice is real. There’s too much focus on emotion and feelings and other mushy stuff that will appeal to some and make others grind their teeth, but her voice sounds real and she’s a great, tough character. Like last time, Cassie is a pain in the ass, as is Evan. There’s an apocalypse-like event going on around them and they only seem to talk about each other, about getting back to each other. Come on, Rick, where’s the action and explosions and chase sequences—Yeah, there they are. In the last fifty or so pages. Those last fifty or so pages are packed with tension, action and the final, epic twist. The twist may divide readers, but I thought it was well-timed and original and can’t imagine the book going another way.

What the book got wrong was the pacing. I read the book very quickly, could have read it faster if I didn’t have university work and editing to do, but that doesn’t mean it’s fast paced. For half of the book, very little happens and there is a lot of back and forth in time. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. There isn’t a whole lot of movement in this book. The characters don’t seem to move anywhere, but stay in only a couple of places. The book is pretty isolated, too—not that it’s a bad thing, but I wanted to know what was happening everywhere else. Even a passing mention of what’s happening around the rest of the world, or even just in the rest of America would have made this novel feel more dramatic and the threat of the invasion bigger and more serious.

Overall, this is a worthy sequel to the 5th Wave, with a huge twist at the end that most people won’t see coming. The characters are believable, if some of them are annoying, the writing is tight and vivid; the action is gripping and there is plenty of tension. If Yancey had just got the pacing a little tighter and injected a little more plot and added maybe fifty more pages, this would have been as good as the 5th Wave.

Highly recommended. The third book, The Last Son, coming this year, is high on the top of my to-read list.

Review of Red Rising by Pierce Brown


Hype is a dangerous thing for a book. If you build people’s expectations up too much, if the book is even a little disappointing it’s exaggerated ten-fold. Looking at most of the other reviews for Red Rising, I fall into the minority who thought this book was average. I started this book expecting it to be exactly the thing I would read and that would blow me away with epic action, great writing, fast pace and a twisty plot. It delivered on one and a half of those things.15839976

Red Rising is well written, there’s no doubt about it. Pierce Brown can write, and he has a great imagination. A trippy imagination, but a great one. The writing is rich, if heavily descriptive in places, and the world is easy to imagine and vividly imagined by Brown. Most of the dialogue is pretty good too, if melodramatic in a lot of places. If the editing has been a little sharper, the description thinned out, this would have been some of the best writing I’d read so far this year.

But the action, fast pace and twisty plot I expected didn’t show. The action and pace did, just in the final forty or so pages of the book when the story was nearing its end—end in YA fiction terms, which means a cliff-hanger for the next book/s in the series. The final forty pages were intense and relentless, but why couldn’t the three hundred and fifty pages before that be the same? Most of the book was moving back and forth across the crazy landscape of mars, characters arguing, fighting, having random battles that didn’t seem to make a lot of sense most of the time. There was little in the way of plot, and for a book that has been praised for originality, I had a hard time finding anything very original. The kids fight to survive (Hunger Games) while people watch (Hunger Games). The games are corrupt (Hunger Games), and the main character, Darrow ends up turning the games on their heads and exposing the corruption (Hunger Games). The world is unique, the cultures and landscapes and creatures are unique—but it wasn’t enough to distinguish Red Rising from dozens of other games themed YA books.

I like action and fast paced and violence in a book, and this had violence in buckets. I’m not a reader who gripes about character development most of the time, but I want a character I can root for, who I can know or look up to. Darrow wasn’t it. He hasn’t got much to do but think about avenging his family, and Brown spends little time in developing him—apart from the obvious, crazy physical changes he goes through near the beginning (Hunger Games again). During the ‘games’ there are so many characters in play that it’s hard to keep track of them—very few are given any development and when they are, it’s brief and vague.

Overall, this book disappointed. I expected great things—maybe too great. There wasn’t enough plot, pace or action. The writing is awesome, and the set up promises great things. Hopefully the sequel will deliver on what Red Rising didn’t. Man, I really wanted this to be in my top ten books of all time.


A science fiction short story

Last year and most of this year was taken up by a change of genre in my writing. I decided to give science fiction a shot, being a big fan of the genre in movies and books. I’ve read everything Crichton wrote and plenty of other sci-fi besides, i’m also a huge sci-fi movie fan and so i wanted to see if i could write something that was not fantasy. What follows is a short story i wrote for last semester at university. It’d be great to get some opinions on it.


“Core malfunction alert.”
“Yes, damn it, I know.” My knuckles burn against the heat pulsing off the core casing. I grind my teeth and force my fingers behind the titanium panel. I smell my flesh burning. Every instinct in my body screams at me to pull away, but I need to get the panel off. I need to get to the core before—
“Core malfunction alert.”
The ship’s hollow voice echoes around the circular chamber again. And whether it is the sound of the voice, setting my teeth on edge, or the terror pumping through me I forget the pain and manage to get my fingers far enough behind the panel. And I pull. It comes loose and I throw it aside, tightening my fists in a vain attempt to lessen the pain. I look down at my trembling, blistered hands. Numbness spreads through my fingers. I shouldn’t be able to feel the effect of the core’s radiation. Not yet. It’s working faster than I thought it would.
“Core malfunction alert.”
I shake my hands, clenching and unclenching them as I examine what the panel has concealed. Black and white wires strangle a thick silver tube studded with bolts. I reach inside, probing the wires. Most are severed and scorched, spraying hot sparks that sting my arms. I close my eyes, willing my addled thoughts to order. Anna’s face appears in my mind. Eyes closed. Face glazed with frost—
“Impact imminent. Core has suffered irreparable damage.”
I open my eyes. “Tell me something I don’t know!”
I run my fingers through my hair, staring into the tangle of wires. I realise I cannot feel my hair, and I bring my hands to my face. My breath catches in my throat. It looks like someone has scrawled across my hands with a marker; every vein stands proud and black against my raw skin. Tears sting my eyes. I will not have time to get to the core—I need more time. But even if I did reach the core, what could I do? The radiation will kill me before I can even get close enough.
I turn away from the panel.
Sparks flare against the intermittent dark, spewing from cables that explode from the ceiling as panels buckle and warp. The roar of the engines is absolute, save the eerie moments of silence when they stall. I glance to the narrow window on my right, and look through the splintered glass. Flames and debris rush past in the dark.
“Computer!” I say.
“Yes, John.”
“What is the probability of passengers’ survival after impact?”
My heart quickens. “What is the probability of cryo-chamber three withstanding impact?”
“Impossible. Damage to core is irreparable.”
“Impact imminent.”
“List emergency protocols for core meltdown.” I close my eyes, willing that hollow voice to tell me what I want to hear, willing it not to say what I know it will—
“All emergency protocols are futile. Damage to core has disabled all available vessel functions.”
My legs buckle beneath me, and I fall. I hit the charred floor. Something whistles over my head, so close I feel it brush my hair, and there is a metallic clang as whatever it is hits the wall opposite. Anna’s face comes to me again. This time she is smiling. Her green eyes stare into mine. Her soft, soft hand touches my cheek. Through my tears I watch sparks of electricity fizzle out against my hands. I don’t feel them. I feel only the tightness in my chest.
“Impact imminent.”
Anna’s face disappears.
I push myself to my feet. The floor tilts beneath me and wreckage hurtles at me from all angles. A crate careers across the room, spilling its contents. I launch myself at the door and hook an arm through the handle just as the ship lurches to the left. Pain throbs through my bicep, but I manage to hold on long enough for the ship to right itself. My knees smash into the floor; I ignore the flaring pain and slam my palm against the glowing lock panel. The door slides open and I clamber through.
Thick pillars of smoke leak from the walls. Debris rattles across the floor and wires swing back and forth from the ceiling. I haven’t taken two steps when the ship tilts again and I’m thrown forwards. I am airborne for less than a second before I slam into the far wall. My head hits a door handle and suddenly everything is muffled. Pain carves a burning line across my skull. The explosions rumbling beneath me are dull punches of sound, and the lock panel is only a blur of pale light behind white flashes. I realise I am sprawled against a door. It’s the Cryo-chamber door. I splay my hands against the lock panel and the door slides sideways beneath me. I fall. As the ship lurches again I manage to get to my feet.
I see the silhouette of Anna’s head through the frosted glass of her Cryo-tube, on the far side of the chamber. My gaze lingers there for a second before I look to the airlock five feet to the tube’s left. My chest tightens again. I know what I must do. I know there isn’t time for anything else.
The flickering lights fail altogether and the chamber is plunged into near darkness. A pillar of blue light projects from the window of Anna’s Cryo-tube, and I use it to guide myself to her. Warped shards of metal shift around my feet as I slide across the chamber. I collapse against the airlock. I look through the door’s window, past the tide of flames swirling across the fuselage, and see Earth. Deep blue and verdant green—like her eyes.
Sound rushes back. Everything seems louder and closer. The numbness creeps up my arms and my legs buck and shiver beneath me. I don’t have long.
“Impact imminent.”
Calling on what little feeling I have left in my arms, I heave myself over to the Cryo-tube. I trace the outline of Anna’s face through the glass with fingers I cannot feel. I wish I could see her face, her eyes, if only for a moment. One last time before I… I turn away, kicking open the clamps holding the Cryo-tube to the wall and hold it in place as it lurches forward.
“Impact imminent.”
Pain breaks across my chest, cold and sharp. I manage to roll the tube in front of the air-lock. Using the heels of my hands, I ease an energy rod from my belt. I depress the cap with my teeth and feel the rod vibrate to life; it starts to glow a muted orange, gets brighter.
I press my forehead against the cold window of the Cryo-tube and imagine Anna’s soft whispered voice in my ear, telling me everything is good, we are going to be fine; we would go for a walk after dinner, watch the stars come out. She tells me how she has always wanted to see them up close. And I tell her I’ll take her to them one day.
“For you, Anna,” I say.
I slam the rod against the airlock’s seal.
A flash of white, hot light and the door is gone.
My throat tightens.
The Cryo-tube pulls away from me, spins out through the airlock and I follow it.
My lungs contract.
I see the tube—Anna—spinning away from me.
I see her smiling face again.
Debris and fire engulf me.
And then all I know is cold.
And then there is only darkness.

New YA novel i’m working on.

As well as Prophecy of Three i’m working on a sci-fi trilogy. Below is the first couple of pages. I’d really appreciate some feedback. Be as brutal as you like. 

Chapter 1 – the Island

Taylor Shephard woke up to find he was falling. Freezing air punched him in the stomach; rushing up his nose and down his throat. He flailed his arms, kicked his legs. Terror rose like a choking stone in his throat. Sheer panic made him forget to breathe. And either it was night or he was blind because he couldn’t see a thing. It was so dark, it had to be night. But if it was, why were there no stars, no clouds or moon? His mind raced, crazy, illogical thoughts whirling in his head. Now the cold wind howling up at him was painful, like daggers, stabbing at every inch of him. His lungs seared, the air forcing its way down his throat and pushing back the threatening bile. And still he was falling, was that even possible? How could someone fall for this long?

            Then he saw it, below him: an island. And around it the sea, almost as dark as the world was only seconds ago, but not quite. Fear beat back confusion. He was going to die, plummet down straight onto that island with no way to stop or break his fall. The island looked like ink, spilled across the water. He saw jagged inlets, thin beaches and as he fell closer, he could make out mountains and the glistening roof of a vast jungle. He would crash down through those treetops, hard and fast, and hit the ground. He knew what would happen. His legs would hit the ground and then he’d crumple into a broken pile. At least it would be quick. At this speed, how could it be anything but?

            “Pull the ring!”

            The yelled voice came from his left. Taylor turned his head, searching. There was someone else, falling, too, but much slower, and above him. And then Taylor saw why. A parachute, stretched taut by the wind, was attached to the persons back. He could see the cord, the bulge of the backpack that must have stored the parachute until the cord had been pulled…

            “The cord, pull it now. Pull the goddamn cord right now!”

With fingers all but paralysed by cold, Taylor searched himself. He felt the backpack now, strapped around his waist and over his shoulders. No cord though, where was the cord? Then, his scrabbling fingers touched the cold surface of something metal. It was a circle, a metal circle. He yanked it hard. There was a ripping sound, something rustling, unfurling and then Taylor was shooting backwards. All the remaining air was forced from his lungs; his stomach lurched upwards as he did. Looking up, he saw his own parachute, a giant dome of silver against the dark.

“Brace yourself!”

Taylor had barely comprehended what the person had said when his feet hit something. A spray of cold water lashed him in the face. Then huge leaves and vines were slapping him, jostling him like the hands and arms of a bustling crowd. Something hard, a tree bough, punched him in the gut. He vomited and the sickly, sweet liquid hit him straight in the face.

“You’re gonna- ow- son of a- you’re gonna land. Brace yourself!”

Taylor barely heard the voice over his own crashing fall. Opening his eyes he looked down to see a mass of darkness, broken only by the titanic tree trunks strangled with vines. His entire body seemed to tense for the impact. But he never reached the ground. There came a tearing sound and suddenly he wasn’t falling anymore. The straps of the parachute tightened, biting painfully into his chest and under his arms.

Somewhere below him, Taylor heard a thudding crash and guessed the other person had landed. He looked down but all he could see was the darkness.

“You good up there?”

Up until now, Taylor had been too dazed to register much of anything, about what was happening. He realised now that it was a boy’s voice. “If good means alive then yeh, I’m good,” Taylor said, throat still stinging, feeling raw from the bile.

The boy laughed and the sound of him grunting and cursing drifted up to Taylor. “What about you?” he called down.

There was the snapping of branches and a final curse. “Me? I’m fine, absolutely brilliant in fact. This is my third time so I’m kinda used to it by now.”

“What, you mean this’s happened to you before?”

“No,” the boy said, then laughed again.

Taylor laughed, too, he didn’t know why. Maybe it was because he was absolutely terrified and laughing seemed the only way to parry it? Though he couldn’t remember a thing, didn’t even know how old he was, he knew that he didn’t like being this high up. If he couldn’t even see the ground, exactly how high up was he? He was sure it must be hundreds of feet. The thought rekindled the bile in his stomach, but he forced it down. “What’s down there?” Taylor asked, hoping to distract himself.

“Jungle,” said the boy. “I think it’s a jungle anyway.”

Fleetingly, Taylor felt a pang of recognition; something came back to him but before he could even reach for it the flicker of memory vanished. Overhead there came a growl of thunder followed by a dazzling flash of white light. For a second, Taylor saw the trees around him flash emerald in the lightning before darkness rushed back. Then, in the thunder’s garbling wake, strange sounds emerged from the shadows in every direction. A haunting chorus of howls and shrieks, guttural growls and piercing wails.

 Arrows of icy fear lanced up and down Taylor’s spine, he felt the hairs rising on the back of his neck. Another peal of thunder reverberated, tailed again by a startling flash of white lightning. Then, joining the voices of what Taylor could only guess were animals, rain began to fall in a drumming torrent. The fat, cold drops struck his face like bullets, numbing his skin, blurring his vision until he was all but blind.

“Is there any way for you to get down.” Taylor barely heard the boy’s voice over the deafening ruckus.

Desperately, Taylor cleared his eyes as best he could and looked quickly round, then up. The silvery canopy of his parachute had been snagged by the grappling branches of a colossal tree. The material, as far as he could see, was ripped to shreds. He tried yanking on the ropes attaching him to it, hoping to work it loose. He stopped, realising how stupid he’d been: even if he did free the canopy he’d just plummet to the ground. 

My favourite books of all time (Updated)

This post was almost impossible to write. I imagined it would be the easiest thing in the world to list my top ten favourite books of all time. But when i came to do it i found that there were just so many books that i love, selecting only ten was almost impossible. The truth is that this list could go on forever because there are so many books that i could include in it. But i wanted to do a top ten, mostly to see if i could, but also to learn which books i loved the most. 

Close behind writing, reading is my favourite thing to do. There is no other experience quite like immersing yourself in an awesome book. I remember the first real book i read (when i say real, i mean full length novel), which was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I’ll admit i didn’t read the first two until i’d read the fourth. Though i’d read fantasy voraciously all my life, The Prisoner of Azkaban was the first book i truly remember completing. I was seven and from that point on there has barely been a day that has passed that i have not had a book in my hand. It’s like an addiction. Like writing, i cannot go a day without loosing myself in the pages of a book. 

And so, here goes. What follows is my top ten favourite books of all time. Though it was hard, i managed to do it. I may have cheated a little by counting a series of books as one, but hey, its my list…

Also note that this is in no particular order. If i tried to do that, i would drive myself crazy. 

1 – The Harry Potter series by J K Rowling

J K Rowling, in my opinion, is the single greatest writer of my generation. I grew up reading the Potter books and cannot imagine how the world would revolve without them. She created a world that was so realistic, so believable that i still have doubts whether Hogwarts is out there somewhere. It’s impossible to pick my favourite, but if i had to, i think Deathly Hallows or Goblet of Fire would be the most likely candidates. 

2 – The Wardstone Chronicles by Joseph Delaney 

Just like the Harry Potter books, i grew up with Joseph Delaney’s Wardstone Chronicles. They follow the adventures of Tom who is apprenticed to a Spook (a man who rids the world of dark creatures). These books, if you haven’t read them, are phenomenal. Just as addictive as the Potter series, they are certainly darker and intended for an older readership, but they are brilliant nonetheless. Spooky and exciting, this series delivers on all fronts and it more than earns its place on this list. I highly recommend you check these books out if you already haven’t.  

3 – Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton 

This one is rather a deviation from the prior two, but there was no way this book was going to miss out on a spot on this list. I watched the movie before i read the book and since the first time i saw that brachiosaurus eating that tree and heard Richard Attenborough utter those words, “Welcome to Jurassic Park” it has been my favourite movie of all time. The book is just as exciting, brilliant and epic. Since reading it i have become a die hard Crichton fan, and though all his books are great, none have come close to being as awesome as Jurassic Park. Just a terrific science fiction read, this is probably the book i’ve read the most times (ten, i think). 

4 – Watership Down by Richard Adams 

Just like Jurassic Park i saw the movie before i read the book. It was several years later that i finally got round to reading Adam’s classic and i still berate myself for not reading it sooner. This novel is brilliant, complex and gripping. For a tale about rabbits, its surprisingly exciting and action packed. 

5 – The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan 

This is another series i grew up with and love almost as much as the Potter books. Blending myth with modern day, Riordan writes with snappy, witty prose and creates a world that it would be really cool to be a part of. Who wouldn’t want to be the son of Poseidon? Consisting of five books and now numerous spin offs, this is an epic journey that i highly recommend you invest in if you already haven’t. 

6 – Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull

I came to this series in the wake of Harry Potter, looking for another world and set of characters that i could immerse myself in. Whilst it will never fill the void left by Potter it makes an awesome attempt. Consisting of five books, each even more entertaining than its predecessor, this series is one that Potter fans should definitely check out. Full of interesting characters, mythology, worlds and creatures, this is an epic set of reads. Though Mull’s audience is more middle grade, there is no reason young adults and even adults cannot enjoy this series. I implore you to look it up, if you already haven’t. 

7 – Department 19 series by Will Hill

This is a relatively new series, following in, but completely reinventing the seemingly endless  tide of vampire books. This series blends action, horror and fantasy and takes it to a whole new exciting level. There are twists and turns, intriguing plot arcs and cool characters at every turn. Will Hill’s prose snaps and sizzles, its gripping from the very first page and unrelenting until the last. I cannot recommend this series more highly. Check it out!

8 – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Again this is a series i admit to coming to pretty late. I didn’t believe the hype at first, thinking it was just another Twilight (which i haven’t read). But when i saw that it wasn’t some romance series with whiny characters, that it had a gritty, action packed plot, i bought the first book. I was barely a chapter in when i went back to the store and purchased the other two books. In four days i had read all three. This is an action packed series that never stops. Unbelievably good!

9 – 11/22/63 by Stephen King – This is a recent read and it is one i wished i had read when it first came out. I have long been a fan of King’s short stories, but had yet to check out any of his novels. Having heard rave reviews about this one, i decided to take a chance when i saw it in a secondhand book shop. And am i ever glad i took that chance. This is in my top five books of all time. Though it may not be as action packed as some of the other books on this list, 11/22/63 is as addictive a book as i’ve ever read. In essence its science fiction, but really it’s much more than that. A powerful, funny, exciting, suspenseful, extraordinarily well written book from beginning to end, this is one i urge anyone and everyone to read. 

10 – The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien 

Though i will admit these books took me a while to get into, there is no way i wasn’t going to include them in this list. Tolkien is the master of high fantasy and in Lord of the Rings he conjures a world so rich and fleshed out that you would think it actually existed. In fact, this series, along with Potter, is directly responsible for inspiring me to write. I can but yearn to create a world as vivid and believable as Tolkien has and in my eyes the man is a genius. Epic!

So there it is, my top ten favourite books of all time. Phew! I could go on and on and on. There at least twenty more books that i considered for this list but if i started to list them too, i know i wouldn’t stop. If there are some you haven’t read yet then i urge you to check them out. 


Writing a movie screenplay

I’m always up for trying anything new, especially in writing. So when an assignment came up at university requiring us to write a screenplay, or part of one, i was pretty excited. I’d had an idea for a science fiction novel bouncing around in my head which i realised could work well as a movie. What follows is my attempt at a science fiction movie screenplay. Let me know what you think, should i write the rest? 


On the table there is mouldy food, cereals spilling from overturned box. In background, through kitchen window, black smoke rises over trees. A cityscape is just visible. Move backwards through hallway. We see clothes, books, smashed vases, overturned furniture strewn along hall. A pool of blood, a pale hand in it. The body is not visible. From hallway into living room, everything here is wrecked too. Move to window, out through it.


A city is in destruction in the distance over roof and tree tops. Smoke rising from all of the sky scrapers. Beyond the house, rows of suburbs and forest are aflame, cars overturned, smashed. A strange aircraft moves over skycrapers, it’s not clear, but we can see that it’s nothing from earth.


We can see nothing. A child coughs.


Dad, why d’you think they came?

The sound of a match being struck. A small flame appears. As it gets brighter we see a man’s hand put the match to a lantern. A young boy is revealed in the light, Noah: about six. His face and clothes are grimy, dirt smeared, but he’s smiling up at his Dad. As the lantern brightens Jim is revealed. Forty years old, stubbly beard, hair sticking up. Just as dirty and grimy as his son. He sits down against a wall by Noah. Behind them the wallpaper shows animals and stars. It’s a child’s bedroom.


I dunno son. Nobody’s ever got close enough to one of em to ask. Why d’you think they’re here?


(Thinks about it) Simon used to tell me that aliens steal people’s brains. (At the mention of Simon Jim closes his eyes for a moment, puts his arm around Noah) But that can’t be it, cos yesterday I saw some people following one of em and they were still walking. And I know you still need a brain to walk- Miss Dodd’s told me so-


(Interrupting) When did you see them?



When you were in that store getting the food. I was hiding in that beat up car and one of em walked past with some people following it.


(To himself) They’ve never come into the suburbs before… Did it see you?


Nope. Why would those people just follow it, Dad? Don’t they know they’re bad?


I don’t know, son.


(Now looking around) What happens if the people who live here come back?

Shot of Jim, leaning forward to his bag. Pulls it into the light. It’s dirty, fraying.


I don’t think they’d mind us staying here for one night. (Changes subject) You hungry yet, little man?

Noah nods, still looking around the room. From his POV we see a child’s bed. Sheets are ripped on the floor. A bear with a stain (blood?) on it is tangled in the sheets.

Shot of Jim, he sees Noah staring at the bed and the bear.


(Trying to divert Noah’s attention) Here we go. (He pulls out a can. Light reveals a label: Hot Dogs) How many you want? (He gets out a knife, stabs it in the top and starts opening the can)




(Smiling as he pulls off the lid carefully. He doesn’t want to cut himself- doesn’t want to draw blood) Okay then. (Holds out can) Be careful of the edges.



(Still eating hotdog) What’s for dessert?


(Smiles, pulls another can from his bag) My favourite.

Light reveals a can of peach segments

A muffled bang and metallic clatter. Jim’s head snaps up. Then the sound of a door closing, thudding footsteps; it’s clear they are not human. Strange clicking, hissing sounds follow: insect like.  


(Wide eyed, scared. To his father) Dad-


(Whispers) Quiet, Noah. Quick, get in the wardrobe.




(Takes hold of Noah’s shoulders)Just do it, son.

Noah gets up, dropping his hot dog. As Jim turns lantern off we see Noah climb into the wardrobe. Jim follows. Just as the lantern light fades completely we see Jim close the door.


The clicking sound and thudding footsteps get louder. A blue light flares at the bottom of the bedroom door. We see this through a narrow gap between the wardrobe doors. The sound of Jim and Noah breathing heavily. In the blue light, we see Jim put a finger to his lips. Noah nods.


Camera is on bottom of door where blue light gets brighter. A shadow flickers. Footsteps stop. Clicking sounds don’t. Door handle turns slowly, squeaks.


Jim pushes Noah behind him and deeper into the wardrobe. Through the gap we see the door swing slowly open, blue light floods in.

A thin, strange shadow appears on floorboards in light.

The shadow moves forward, into the bedroom.

We see the alien. Four long, thin arms and a very thin body. The blue light is coming from a strange flashlight the alien is holding. It’s holding it like a gun. We see that it is some kind of weapon.  

The alien is still partially in shadow. It reaches down and picks up Noah’s hot dog, Sniffs it.

Its head snaps up. It looks at the wardrobe. It has huge, black eyes.




Jim pushes Noah even further back.




Alien rises and starts towards wardrobe, flicks a switch on the weapon and it starts to hum.




Jim unsheathes a knife from his belt, holds it out towards the doors. Another banging sound comes from downstairs. Alien turns away from wardrobe.




From over alien’s shoulder, we see flaps of skin over its ears flutter: it’s listening. Sound of footsteps. We see top of stairs. A yellow flashlight beam flicks across walls and floor.




Jim, knife still held out. Through the gap in wardrobe doors the alien suddenly leaps forward, out of the bedroom. Sound of it crashing downstairs.



 There you are (grunts) Son of a-


A gun fires three shots in quick succession. There is the sound of something heavy smashing to the floor. Silence. Then the sound of something climbing up the stairs.

Jim grips his knife tighter, starts to rise.

A flashlight beam cuts into bedroom from outside door.



(In a strong southern accent) You folks okay in there?


Jim pushes doors open, still cautious.




Over Jim’s shoulder, Taylor steps into view in flashlight glare. He’s tall, unshaven. He’s holding a rifle.





Nice to see the son of a bitch didn’t kill you.



(Emerges slowly from wardrobe) Dad?


Noah rushes to Jim. Jim puts an arm around Noah’s shoulders. Noah looks up at Taylor, at his gun, then out through the bedroom door.




Is it…




Dead? No doubt. I’ve been on that one’s ass for three days. (He gestures with his rifle downstairs) It’s been tracking you. Is that kerosene? (He points to the lamp on the floor)



(Looks down at lamp, then quickly back to Taylor’s rifle) Yeh.



(He nods) That’s probably what got it interested in you in the first place. (He notices them both looking at his rifle, puts it aside, holds up his hands) Most people think its only blood that’ll attract em, but kerosene-hell any kind of fuel gets em excited, too.


Taylor walks over to the bed, sits down. He shrugs off his pack and pulls a lantern from it. He turns a dial on the lantern and white light (LED) fills the room.




The name’s Taylor. (He sticks out a hand after wiping a glistening blue stain off it)



(Shakes Taylor’s hand) Jim. And this is my son, Noah.



Nice to meet you, folks. I ain’t seen nothing but those damn aliens for a month. It’s good to finally see they didn’t get us all. Where you folk’s from anyway?    



(Relaxes a little) Boston



(Shocked) Damn. That’s the first place those bastards hit, ain’t it. How in the hell d’you get out alive? 


Jim’s jaw twitches, he looks down, remembering…


















Star Trek Into Darkness – this gives me chills

Ever since the first episode of Lost i have been addicted to JJ Abrams TV shows and his movies. In my opinion, the man is a genius, beaten only by Spielberg who is my favourite filmmaker of all time. Abrams update of the Star Trek franchise was phenomenal and Star Trek (2009) is in my top five movies of all time. Ever since the sequel was announced i have been counting down the months until it arrived. And now, it is less than a month away. This third and final trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness gave me chills the whole way through, and i cannot wait until this movie is released. What for yourself and i defy anyone not to be excited by this.

Must see movies of 2013

2012 gave us some awesome movies. Avengers Assemble, Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit; An Unexpected Journey, Rise of the Guardians, and two dozen others that i could list but won’t. 2013 looks set to be just as, if not more so, exciting in terms of movies being released. 

First of all, there is the highly anticipated second installment of The Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug. Peter Jackson teased us with that final shot of Smaug awakening just as Bilbo and the dwarves caught the first glimpse of Erebor. Only a few images have been released so far and what they show is very promising. An unexpected journey divided audiences, some said it was too long, others too padded out etc. but i thoroughly enjoyed it and cannot wait to see Desolation of Smaug and see what the dragon is actually going to look like. 

Another must see movie of 2013 is the highly anticipated sequel to JJ Abrams box office smash hit and critically acclaimed reboot of Star Trek. I was never a fan of the tv show, but the first few minutes of JJ’s vision of Trek hooked me and the sequel, Into Darkness has been on my ‘can’t wait to see’ list since it was announced. The trailer is awesome, one of the best i’ve seen this year and it’ll be great to see all the characters back and see a genuinely awe inspiring science fiction movie from JJ, who is fast becoming my favourite director – though he still hasn’t knocked Spielberg off that top position yet. 

Elsewhere in sci-fi there is Tom Cruise led Oblivion, After Earth with Will and Jaden Smith, Elysium from the director of the superlative District 9, Guillermo Del Toro’s action packed looking Pacific Rim and the adaption of Ender’s Game starring Harrison Ford. 

In the world of Marvel we are getting Iron Man 3 that, if the trailer is anything to go by, will be a vast improvement on the somewhat disappointing second installment. We also get Thor: The Dark world which promises to be more game of thrones than its predecessor and deliver some epic, fantasy battles. 

2013 looks set to be a groundbreaking year of cinema, specifically in fantasy. Which movies are you most looking forward to?