Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Barracuda - 1. Slaves" by Jean Dufaux (script) & Jérémy (artist)

"Barracuda - 1. Slaves"
by Jean Dufaux (script) & Jérémy (artist)
Publisher: Cinebook
The review is based on a bought copy of the book

Pirates have appeal, it seems they always had. It is a very interesting thing to observe for such a criminal, violent activity producing such an attraction, for such vicious villains becoming romanticized heroes more often than not. Yours truly is no exception, in historical books or pure fiction I surprise myself picturing them as valiant adventurers before starting to consider their savage nature and brutal acts. It is no different with the comics written and illustrated by the Belgian duo, Jean Dufaux and Jérémy Petiqueux, “Barracuda”.

The famed pirate ship Barracuda, led by the infamous captain Blackdog, seizes a vessel and capture some of the passengers travelling on it, Doña Del Scuebo, her daughter Maria and Emilio, a young servant boy who disguises himself as a girl in order to avoid being killed by the pirates, the fate of almost every man on board of the captured ship. The three of them are brought to Puerto Blanco and sold as slaves under the supervision of Blackdog’s son, Raffy.

There is nothing romanticized in the pirates of this first volume of “Barracuda”, they are a lot as vicious as they can be. Even from the beginning their courses of action lead to utter violence, exploitation and abuse. However, Jean Dufaux and Jérémy manage to keep the ugly side of the story in check, the ferocity of vile acts are more hinted at rather than treated in full graphic, verbal violence preceding the physical one and plenty of the misdeeds taking place off screen, sparing characters and readers alike from full front extreme brutality. The conflicts still escalate, but most often only into swashbuckling scenes typically associated with such adventures. “Barracuda – Slaves” is still a dark and fierce story, but nicely rounded so it cannot turn into an offensive tale.

Caught in this world of violence are three young people, Maria, Emilio and Raffy, the three characters that emerge as the main protagonists of this volume. Colliding here and there and ending up stranded in Puerto Blanco the three youngsters approach the story from different sides. And from different perspectives as well, since Emilio’s part is told from first person point of view and the other two from third person, yet it turned out that it didn’t exercise more sympathy from my part for Emilio and it does not make him a more developed character than Maria and Raffy. Crisscrossing paths these three characters seem to be heading towards a common point in the story, but this doesn’t happen in “Barracuda – Slaves”, the volume feels and is the introduction part. It is the starting point for a larger story, taking into account the initial details of setting, plot and characters.

The feeling of introductory part is felt even from the title of the series and the cover of the first volume, “Barracuda” sporting the portrait of Blackdog, the captain of the title eponymous pirate ship, on the cover of “Barracuda - Slaves”, but both making the slightest of appearances in the story of this comic. However the plot leaves plenty of room for the development. A map pointing the directions to a certain extremely valuable diamond falls into Blackdog’s hands and he sets sail in search of it at the end of the book. The pirate island’s governess has her own plans for Barracuda and its captain and together with her right hand starts a little game of politics. The mysterious figure, who exerts a powerful influence among Puerto Blanco’s pirates, entering into Emilio’s life promises interesting things for his story arc. Spread elements of a wider plot, but all very interesting and holding the potential for making the “Barracuda” series even better than it already started. Only one thing kept bugging me at the entire enterprise, although we are dealing with merciless scoundrels they seem to conceal an odd respect for the religious representatives. Blackdog’s crew spares for no reason the life of a priest when they seize the ship he is on, although Emilio needs to disguise himself as a girl in order to escape the pirates’ habit of killing every single man on the captured ships. And in Puerto Blanco, the harbor of a pirate island festering with villains, where even the governess rule is based on the principles of piracy, there is present a church that escapes unscathed although it plays a role into the island’s slave trading. I am aware of the place these elements have on the whole and the role they play within the story, but they do look awkward, especially when the cast is brimming with characters of low morals, farfetched from the pious bunch.

The art of Jérémy adds further vividness to the world of “Barracuda”. Battle scenes and settings nicely done, colors used with ability and above all, the excellent rendering of characters. Each and single one is portrayed with talent, each is given individuality and personality. Emotions are captured effortlessly, feelings are depicted with accuracy. Every panel would work wonderfully on itself as a small piece of art, but together with the story it creates an excellent combination, fusing Jérémy and Jean Dufaux’s efforts harmoniously, with the best possible outcome.

“Barracuda – Slaves” opens the road for a wider story, it is a mood setter, but it does so leaving the reader itching for Jean Dufaux and Jérémy’s continuation of this comic book series.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cover art - "On a Red Station, Drifting" by Aliette de Bodard

I loved Aliette de Bodard’s “On a Red Station, Drifting”, it is a wonderful and touching story, but I still hold a regret at the time of my first reading of this short novel. I believed, and I still do, that the cover artwork for the hardcover edition of “On a Red Station, Drifting” was no match for the beauty of the novella. I felt that with more effort the cover could have been better, as it is proved by the artwork of the ebook edition. A far better choice and a more representative and engaging one. And since I do like quite a bit the books in physical form, especially those volumes I loved reading and cherish because of it, I do love them with beautiful cover artworks. Even more so considering that the cover of an ebook is easily left behind after opening the file, while that of a physical edition is met by the eye each time the reader picks up the respective book. Well, it seems that Aliette de Bodard’s “On a Red Station, Drifting” has the chance to have the beautiful cover of the ebook edition on a printed volume as well. Aliette de Bodard is publishing a new printed edition of “On a Red Station, Drifting” through Createspace and this volume comes with the cover designed by Nhan Y Doanh for the ebook edition. And since we are at this chapter, here is also the cover artwork for the Spanish edition of “On a Red Station, Drifitng”, published by Fata Libelli at the end of the year. The artist Omar Moreno went on a different road with his cover, coming with a more simple approach, more suited for the publisher’s line of book covers.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"The Invincible Sun" by K.J. Parker on the horizon

I find K.J. Parker to be one of the best and most original fantasy writers, her/his works have always surprised and thrilled me. And the form of the said works has little relevance, no matter if it is a series or a stand-alone novel, a novella or a short story, fiction or non-fiction K.J. Parker excels with every single one of them. Therefore each piece of news about a new book or short story signed by this excellent writer brings me nothing but delight, as it is the one hinting at K.J. Parker’s new novel. With a release date set for February 2015 “The Invincible Sun” is the first novel in a new trilogy by K.J. Parker. There is not much more information to be had at the moment and even the scarce one surfaced so far is pretty general.

The first in a epic trilogy from the acclaimed author of Sharps. K.J. Parker's new series is a perfectly executed tale of intrigue and deception that will leave you breathless. THE INVINCIBLE SUN tells the story of an empire. With an extraordinary cast of characters, from soldier and generals to politics and princes, THE INVINCIBLE SUN will appeal to a broad range of fantasy readers and is destined to become a landmark work in the genre.

However, I am certain there is nothing of standard issue about K.J. Parker’s “The Invincible Sun”. After all, I don’t have only my preference for K.J. Parker’s works to back me up, but also the short stories sharing the same universe as the upcoming novel. Three of which can be enjoyed for free online, “Amor Vincit Omnia”, “One Little Room an Everywhere” and “The Sun and I”, with the last one depicting the birth of the religion of the Invincible Sun.

For me, K.J. Parker’s “The Invincible Sun” is the most anticipated book of February 2015.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Cover art - "Aickman's Heirs" edited by Simon Strantzas

I must admit that I am not very familiar with Robert Aickman’s fiction, besides a couple of short stories I didn’t get many chances to read his works. However, I have full confidence in Undertow Books and Michael Kelly, my experience with “Shadows & Tall Trees” magazine has been nothing by the best, while the first volume of “Year’s Best Weird Fiction”, the latest release of this small publishing house, looks extremely promising. You may rightfully ask why I am talking about these two. Well, Undertow Books recently announced its next scheduled book, “Aickman’s Heirs”, edited by Simon Strantzas and due to be released on spring 2015. As the title suggests this collection of short stories is dedicated to Robert Aickman and his influence on the weird fiction and, like I said, while I am not familiar with his works I am very interested to see what Undertow Books has in store with this title. Not only that, but although there are not many more pieces of information about this anthology at the moment the cover artwork for “Aickman’s Heirs” sparked my imagination instantly and made it go wild.  Born from the talented brush of Yaroslav Gerzhedovich this is one of the most evocative covers I’ve seen lately, deeply atmospheric and utterly enthralling. Creating a complete story by itself Yaroslav Gerzhedovich’s artwork spellbound me into profound admiration. Add the excellent lettering and the final result is absolutely wonderful.

Speaking of Robert Aickman and cover artwork, Faber & Faber published this year new editions of four of Robert Aickman’s short stories collections, “Dark Entries”, “The Unsettled Dust”, “Cold Hand in Mine” and “The Wine-Dark Sea”, with some excellent covers as well. A bit more crowded than “Aickman’s Heirs” but very good nonetheless.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Vincent Chong's limited edition prints sale

© Vincent Chong & Subterranean Press
Vincent Chong, one of the favorite artists around this blog, launched a sale on all limited edition prints born from his very talented hands. Starting this week until December 31st the price of the limited edition prints drops with 25%. These include the wraparound dusk jacket art made by Vincent Chong for the limited edition Stephen King’s “The Shining”, but also several other cover artworks for limited editions of Stephen King’s “Doctor Sleep”, Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s “Locke & Key: Crown of Shadows”, China Miéville’s “Embassytown” or Martin Livings’ “Living with the Dead” among them. If you like to have one of these limited edition prints you can find all the available ones and more details about Vincent Chong’s sale on his personal website.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Table of contents - "The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2013" edited by Liz Grzyb & Talie Helene

As June came and go, with the initial release date of “The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror” fourth volume passing together with it without any news whatsoever about the 2013 collection, I was afraid that this excellent anthology had the faith of other several short fiction venues I loved. I understand that short fiction market is a very difficult one, such stories are harder to sell than novels, but I am still deeply saddened when these hardships lead to the disappearance of magazines or anthology series, such as “The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror”, excellent sources of wonderful stories and opportunities of discovering new, talented writers. With not only June passing by, but also July, August and September, in the face of “The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror” ceasing its existence my sadness turned into resignation, only to lead to a heightened joy when news of the fourth volume’s release finally broke forth. Delayed for quite a bit it is a relief to learn that “The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2013” is going to be released by Ticonderoga Publications in late November this year, it is a joy to see another strong line-up assembled the editors Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene, with my favorites Kaaron Warren, Deborah Biancotti and Angela Slatter making another appearance on this annual series of anthologies, and an absolute delight to discover that this wonderful, yearly collection of Australia’s and New Zealand’s finest short stories will add at least three more volumes to the four already published. For me these are as many reasons for celebration, because I do believe it would have been a shame to see this amazing series of year’s best anthologies going into oblivion.

“Disciple of the Torrent” by Lee Battersby (Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land)
“All the Lost Ones” by Deborah Biancotti (Exotic Gothic 5 Vol I)
“Camp Follower” by Trudi Canavan (Fearsome Journeys)
“Glasskin” by Robert G. Cook (Review of Australian Fiction Vol 5 #6)
“The Ways of the Wyrding Women” by Rowena Cory Daniells (One Small Step)
“The Sleepover” by Terry Dowling (Exotic Gothic 5 Vol II)
“After Hours” by Thoraiya Dyer (Asymmetry)
“A Castle in Toorak” by Marion Halligan (Griffith Review #42)
“The Boy by the Gate” by Dmetri Kakmi (The New Gothic)
“Harry's Dead Poodle” by David Kernot (Cover of Darkness Magazine)
“Black Swan Event” by Margo Lanagan (Griffith Review #42)
“Poppies” by S.G. Larner (Aurealis #65)
“La Mort d'un Roturer” by Martin Livings (This is How You Die)
“Caution: Contains Small Parts” by Kirstyn McDermott (Caution: Contains Small Parts)
“The Ninety Two” by Claire McKenna (Next)
“The Nest” by C.S. McMullen (Nightmare Magazine)
“By Bone-Light” by Juliet Marillier (Prickle Moon)
“Old Souls” by David Thomas Moore (The Book of the Dead)
“The Oblivion Box” by Faith Mudge (Dreaming of Djinn)
“Sticks and Stones” by Ryan O'Neill (The Great Unknown)
“Almost Beautiful” by Angela Rega (Next)
“The Raven and Her Victory” by Tansy Rayner Roberts (Where Thy Dark Eye Glances: Queering Edgar Allan Poe)
“On the Wall” by Nicky Rowlands (Next)
“The Silence of Clockwork” by Carol Ryles (Conflux 9 Convention Programme)
“Flight” by Angela Slatter (Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales)
“Bowfin Island” by Anna Tambour (Caledonia Dreamin')
“Born and Bread” by Kaaron Warren (Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales)
“Hell is Where the Heart is” by Janeen Webb (Next)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Premio Minotauro 2014

Yesterday, in a ceremony held in Sitges, during the 47th edition of the International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia, the winner of the Premio Minotauro, the International Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Award, has been announced. The jury of the 11th edition of Premio Minotauro, formed by Adrián Guerra (producer), Ángel Sala (the director of the Sitges Film Festival), Marcela Serras (editorial director of Minotauro), Javier Sierra (writer) and Carlos Sisí (writer and winner of the 2013 Premio Minotauro), elected from a total of 450 manuscripts Carlos Molinero’s novel, “Verano de Miedo” (Summer of Fear), as the winner (submitted under the false title “Hermana Noche” (Sister Night), signed with the pseudonym Morgenstern). As usual, besides the prize of 10,000 euros received by the winner, the novel will be published by Ediciones Minotauro and it is due to be released on 28th October.

When his mother announces him that he’ll spend the summer melting his vacation in Vega Alta, the village of his grandmother, the first thought that passes through Juan’s mind is that he is going to die of boredom. But the construction of some villas in the outskirts of the village unearths a blood thirsty creature that from this point forward makes boredom impossible. Dying is another matter.

Juan faces the threat of the vampire together with Eva, an obese Goth girl, and Jairo, a former child lay brother of San Ildefonso. Against his inferior conditions he decides to use information as weapon, so he starts to write on his blog all the terrible things that are happening in Vega Alta. With only this he gets someone’s attention: the risen vampire who has a hard to imagine plan for Vega Alta…

“Summer of Fear” is not only a quick and refreshing novel, but also a homage of the classics of horror and of those summers, bloody or not, that change our lives.

Photo – SITGES, Festival Internacional
de Cinema Fantàstic de Catalunya
Carlos Molinero won in 2002, together with Lola Salvador, Clara Pérez Escrivá and Jorge Juan Martínez, the Goya Award for the best adapted screenplay for “Salvajes” (Savages), based on the homonym theatre play. In 2007 he directed, together with Lola Salvador, the documentary “La niebla de las palmeras” (The Mist in the Palm Trees). He wrote screenplays for TV series such as “Querido maestro” (Dear Teacher), “Paco y Veva” (Paco and Veva), “El comisario” (The Deputy), “La fuga” (The Escape), “Cuéntame” (Tell Me) or “Alatriste” (Alatriste). He is also the author of various short plays, in addition to “Verónica”, a piece of spiritualistic horror. (bio presented by Fantasymundo)

Congratulations!