Monday, June 30, 2014

Review: Gallery of Horror

Gallery of Horror
Gallery of Horror by Charles L. Grant

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Collection of very mixed quality, of which only 'Nunc Dimittis by Tanith Lee and 'The Chair' by Dennis Etchison' are of the highest quality, stretching through ordinary efforts by Stephen King, Robert Bloch and other horror luminaries to substandard efforts by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Theodore Sturgeon and T.E.D. Klein. The low-light, as seems to be the case with any anthology in which you find him, is 'Death to the Easter Bunny' by the execrable Alan Ryan. Solid, unexciting efforts by Ramsey Campbell, Gardner Dozois & Jack Dann, and Steve Rasnic Tem keep you turning the pages, hoping for something better to really knock your socks off, but it never really arrives. Readers without any previous exposure to the horror genre will find much to enjoy.

View all my reviews

Review: The Man Who Was Thursday

The Man Who Was Thursday
The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Utterly delightful, comic crime caper with a philosophical bent that lends the spiralling absurdity a serious underpinning that lifts it above a merely humorous work. Chesterton's mastery of language and deft characterisation makes this a wonderful read. A masterful work by one of the best authors in the English language.

View all my reviews

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Review: Promise

Promise by Tony Cavanaugh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Slowly evolves into a gripping read as details and points of view begin to spiral inwards towards the final confrontation. Cavanaugh has a gift for setting and detail that can be unsettling but is never less than enthralling. His characters have a tendency to drift towards the stereotypical, including the protagonist Darian Richards, who falls firmly into the supercop-with-a-haunted-past trope, and there are occasional actions that defy the law of narrative belief, but this is an excellently detailed, engaging thriller that never lets the tension drop and is utterly bereft of fat.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


My darling wife, Luscious Lyn, turns 45 today.

It's difficult for me to believe that we've been together, now, for over 11 years. Every day feels like a first. There's a freshness, a spirit, to our relationship: it constantly reinvents itself, changes shape and form and direction, so that I've never once felt any sense of stalemate, or a lack of passion.

She's a woman of immense strength, my Lyn, of intensity and lyricism and devotion. She forgives everyone, sees benevolence and righteousness everywhere, puts the whole world and its achievements above her own. She is by turns humble, empowering and sacrificial. And these great strengths are also her great weaknesses, because they drive her into areas of self-doubt and lack of belief that she doesn't, in the slightest way, deserve. She is capable of great things, and while she achieves them on a daily basis-- overcoming health issues, raising children through the onset of myriad serious, life-changing issues, coping with a past that would keep seasoned horror writers from their sleep-- she holds within her the capacity to create something that will change the way the world looks at itself, if she believes in herself long enough to do so.

She is the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning, and the last thing I see before I fall asleep at night. She bookends my thoughts like she bookends my day-- nothing I say or do happens without her in my mind. She is the centre of my life.

Happy birthday, my beautiful wife.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Review: Stone Cold

Stone Cold
Stone Cold by David Baldacci

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

There isn't a cliche in the world that David Baldacci doesn't hit in this book. Leaden prose, two-dimensional characters, the standard retired-super-soldier-with-secret-past plot.... this is Lee Child for the silver set, so greyishly familiar and just downright stupid that it might be the first novel to pass the Turing Test, it's so hard to believe it was written by a human author and didn't, somehow, write itself from a few choice prompts. Don't bother.

View all my reviews

Monday, June 16, 2014

Review: The Dragon Griaule

The Dragon Griaule
The Dragon Griaule by Lucius Shepard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An absolute masterpiece. The stories within this volume constitute an epoch-spanning alternative history of several hundred years, centred round the ominous and possibly-sentient presence of a mile-long ancient dragon, turned to stone and built upon by generations of settlers, and the way they interact with it as landscape, obsession, and possibly, malign active influence in their lives. Shepard paints an epic historical landscape while never letting go of the small stories and personal interactions that drive the narrative. Shepard's narratives are driven by believable, human characters, and it is that strong verisimilitude that lifts these stories above the ordinary fantasy tale. Griaule may be a complex, unknowable force of nature that intrudes into every aspect of these characters' lives, but it is the people themselves we remember. Every one of the stories in this volume is a rich, tightly woven tapestry of superb narrative balance. Taken together, they comprise a tour de force of fantasy writing of the very highest order. A superb volume.

View all my reviews

Review: The LEGO Adventure Book, Vol. 2

The LEGO Adventure Book, Vol. 2
The LEGO Adventure Book, Vol. 2 by Megan H. Rothrock

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Similar in tone to the first volume in the series, this book continues with a central narrative involving minifig Megan travelling through different 'zones' in pursuit of an anti-Lego bad guy, discovering different building styles and themes as she progresses from zone to zone. It's a cute conceit, and serves to highlight the maximum number of different approaches to building in a logical and easily digestible fashion. Each section is well-designed, with a range of photos as well an instruction breakdown to help the reader build a typical example of each builder's signature model, and an engaging look at the builder in question. Th tone is pitched perfectly for both child and adult readers, with enough character engagement and plot to encourage the kids to keep turning the pages, and builds that encompass a rang of sophistication so that there's plenty to keep adult builders coming back to use it as a reference text. The ending leaves open the possibility of a third volume, which would be welcome.

View all my reviews

Review: Lego Play Book: Ideas to Bring Your Bricks to Life

Lego Play Book: Ideas to Bring Your Bricks to Life
Lego Play Book: Ideas to Bring Your Bricks to Life by Daniel Lipkowitz

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There are a plethora of similar books on the market at the moment-- big, glossy, lightly-humorous approaches to building techniques, using a kid-friendly approach with lots of pictures and signifying real-life builders via minifigs that interact with the models thy have built. This is typical of the breed: bright and breezy, but perhaps lacking the depth of other volumes. It's aimed squarely at kids, and is enjoyable without focusing too deeply upon techniques or step-by-step instructions. Instead it serves more as an introductory tome, with the accent on fun and cramming as many completed builds onto the page as possible. It's light and frothy, but doesn't encourage repeated readings.

View all my reviews


I love working a nine day fortnight.

After a few days away from the work, I managed to sit down today and bash out 2300 words on The Hall of Small Questions, bringing the story to just over 7000 words in total. It's the first of a number of milestones for me: once a work crosses 5000 words, I know it's going to be something. It may not end up a novel, but the story has gelled enough that I know it will eventually become a complete story, at whatever natural length is right for the narrative. And so it is proving in this case: the narrative is beginning to peek out from behind the scene setting; characters have placed themselves into the setting and are beginning to direct the course of the plot; and my protagonist is starting to take independent action. Th Hall of Small Questions will be completed, in time, I now know that for sure.

So, to mark this crossing of my own personal Rubicon, here's a little paragraph from today's writing, to whet both your appetite and mine:

“We are the product of our environment, Wacian.” Broga tapped my forehead gently with his finger. “The world we inhabit is an extension of ourselves. If the world outside that window looks beautiful it is only because the people who inhabit it look beautiful. But we do not concern ourselves with elegant robes and powdered skin. We peel these things away and reveal the corruption below. We cannot immerse ourselves in that beautiful environment, not unless we wish to risk losing sight of the corruption underneath its skin.”

“Truth must remain pure,” Eadward had been waiting for me. Now he stepped forward out of the nearby shadows. “And we must remain pure in order to search it out.” 

Sunday, June 15, 2014


Post photos of your treasure haul and your washing machined-cat in the comments...

Thursday, June 12, 2014


A few mathoms too small for their own post:


Over at Paul's Technic Blog he's running a series of short interviews with AFOLs of various stripes. I chat about how I got sucked in, how my family don't remember what I look like and what I like to build towards the bottom of the page.


The Perth Lego User Group's June challenge is to build something in 'micro' scale-- that is, at a scale smaller than 1:1 with a minifig. Here's a sneak peek at what I'm building in response.

No explanation for you.
Circumstances prevailed, recently, and I was forced to release my agent. A short slough of despond ensued, and frankly, I was facing the idea I might decide never to write again without a whole lot of regret.
Then The Hall of Small Questions stuck its head up and forced me to put aside all that rubbish.
5000 words in the last 4 days is the result. I should have a new novel draft finished by the end of the year. In the meantime, I'm working towards finding a home for Father Muerte and the Divine, to make up for the 3 months I've lost waiting.
Here's a little peek at the progress of HoSQ:
"We are not a Holy Order,” he said as we stalked down yet another corridor between rooms whose function I could barely comprehend. “We are not by Royal Appointment. We do not have a board of Governors, nor do we accept patronage, donations, sponsorship or favour. Why…” he asked, stopping so suddenly that I almost buried my head between the folds of the gown hanging down around his arse. “do you think that is?”
I stuttered, thrown off balance by the sudden change in the flow of his oratory. “I don’t know.”
“Do not say that!” The anger in his voice was sudden, and fierce. “A Requester is not supposed to know. A Requester seeks. He questions. You do not not know, you shall do your best to find out!”



"What the hell do you mean, you think we should see other people?"
I rather like this one. Relationships are at the core of narrative, as is conflict, so it makes sense that broken-- or, at least, breaking-- relationships are far more interesting than content ones. Plus, the idea that Adam and Eve haven't developed a concept of clothing but have invented the suitcase amuses me. What exactly does she have in them?

Thursday, June 05, 2014


Nothing to say about this one: a whimsy, a bon mot of momentary amusement. What's most am using to me is that the machine is obviously meant to be a labyrinthine maze of tubes and vaguely scientific falderal, and I just as obviously got bored halfway through and said "that'll give me the idea of it...".

They can't all be classics.

"I think I've found the 'on' switch!"

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Review: Brick City: Global Icons to Make from Lego

Brick City: Global Icons to Make from Lego
Brick City: Global Icons to Make from Lego by Warren Elsmore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stunning architectural models of differing sizes, from tiny micro-builds to massive structures taller than an adult human, presented in beautifully framed photographs with solid information and insights from the builders. Wrapped up with two fold-out posters and dotted through with ste-by-step instructions for some of the simpler builds, this is an excellent guide for Lego fans, treating its subject as a worthwhile artform rather than the "yeah, it's dorky, but..." approach that many books of this sort favour. Beautiful builds beautifully presented.

View all my reviews

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Review: Trucksong

Trucksong by Andrew MacRae

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Entertaining post-apocalyptic road trip written in an easily-digestible pidgeon, detailing a young man's hunt for the love of his love who has been stolen by an intelligent truck. The narrative is fairly straightforward, and the climax is telegraphed fairly early, but the language, setting and characterisation carry the story along at a cracking pace and makes for a satisfying read.

View all my reviews


It's that time of year again: The Perth Model Railway Show, which contains the only annual Lego display of note in these parts, conducted by the WA Brick Society. The kids and I have been for the last 2 years, and enthusiasm was high for a threepeat. So, leaving Lego-loveless Luscious behind to plough further into modernism and the sexual meaning of Mrs Dalloway (or, as she calls it, her University study), we trooped our way up to the Claremont Showgrounds to see what had been prepared for our builderly entertainment.

What had been prepared was trains. Sounds obvious, perhaps, given that the display is in the middle of a fucknormous model train show, but in the two previous years the Lego display has been a somewhat discrete element of the show, and not reliant on preparing their various dioramas around train lines. Perhaps at the direction of the show organisers, or perhaps simply because they decided to move in that direction themselves, this year a significant number of dioramas contained train lines, even when, in the case of a stunningly beautiful Skyrim village, it didn't quite make sense for them to do so.

The beautifully realised and quite stunning medieval-style Skyrim village, complete with train track.

A detail of the simply stunning work on this model. 

Another feature was the addition of non-Lego elements: a plethora of plastic toys and doll house features integrated into the display to, as explained by one of the friendly WABS members I chatted to, emphasise that Lego is a toy amongst other toys, and one that can be incorporated into wider play. Fair enough, but I was there for the Lego, so while the other elements didn't detract from the display for me, they rarely enhanced it, and I would have preferred to see more new techniques and builds. That, however, was a personal reaction from a Lego geek, and judging by the depth of the crowd around the displays, did nothing to dilute the display's ongoing popularity.

An example of the integration of non-Lego toys into the display: scale model cars cruise past a row of Lego buildings.

A number of elements made returns from previous displays: the disco, island and giant container ship we had seen in both previous visits were there, and I can understand that once you've created such enormous and well-realised creations you want them to be seen as often as possible. For my kids, however, they were simply things that had been seen before, so they were skated past, as were displays where stock sets had been built and incorporated into a display by means of free-building walkways or paths between them. There was momentary fun for the kids in identifying sets we had at home, but it was accompanied by explaining why they then merited being displayed as they were: picky kids!

An extensive theme park display, featuring the Bag End we have at home, the Haunted House we have at home, the Helm's Deep I've moaned about not getting when it came out.... beautifully put together into a new diorama with a surrounding train track complete with moving train.

The disco, complete with 'giant' TV screen (showing a Vanilla Ice clip as we passed by) made a return to this year's display. Stunning techniques in this WABS standard. 

All of which sounds rather critical. However, I should point out that the reason I go each year is because the skill of these builders is so much greater than my own that it staggers me to see their designs, techniques and creations. Even when creative decisions don't resonate with me-- such as the incorporation of other toys-- the decision-making process is fascinating to me, and the WA Brick Society is the only Lego group in this State with the co-ordination and organisation to create such large-scale designs and put on a public display of works. And their work is incredible.

Or I could just shut-up and show you some pictures.

A new highlight: a baseball game in mid-pitch, with incredible detail built into the surrounding stadium and a viewing audience including Mr Burns, a vampire, Iron Man, a witch, a mummy, Spidey...

The much anticipated Lego Cuusoo (now Lego Ideas) fan-designed Back to the Future DeLorean set. Rather underwhelming in the flesh (brick?) but incorporated nicely into a wider 'Hollywood theme park' diorama.

That, my friends, is a donk.

Kingswood V8 ute. Because bricks aren't just for bogans to prop one of these up in the front yard on anymore.

A delightful lunar lander diorama, with moving lunar rover that circled the main set, and visitation from a Pixar buddy in the background.

Beautifully realised space station. Some of the 'quiet' techniques used by the WABS members were truly wonderful: this was by no means the flashiest model on display, but the SNOT (studs not on top) techniques are gorgeous. 

A highlight of this year's display was a mecha-vs-military display that took up one end of the display space. Sprinkled with what looked, to me at least, like a generous amount of customised 'Brick Arms' parts, it was a fantastic example of what can be done with a strong theme and repeated builds.